After losing two of their last three games at home, the Miami Heat were dangerously close to suffering their most embarrassing loss at the FTX Arena this season in a surprisingly tough game against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night. With Jimmy Butler out after the half with a sprained ankle, it was Max Strus, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo who stepped up in the fourth quarter to lead the Heat to the 105-98 win over the resilient Pistons.
Detroit entered the game having lost 50 games and playing without No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham, but you wouldn’t have known it with strong play from several young players. Right from the beginning it was apparent the Pistons weren’t going to make this easy with their length and athleticism. Adebayo played well but was hampered with early foul trouble, forcing Markieff Morris and Dewayne Dedmon to action.
Though the Pistons showed plenty of effort on defense to force the Heat into difficult shots, they showed lack of discipline with fouls and the Heat cashed in, going 22-26 from the free throw line in the first half. Nevertheless, Detroit’s 17-5 run in the second quarter allowed them to take a 41-36 lead. Even with Adebayo looking on from the bench with three fouls, Miami scored 10 straight points and went on a 13-2 run near the end of the quarter to retake the lead. By this point Butler was already hobbled after re-injuring his right ankle, but it was Herro who stepped up big time with 20 points in the half, including 17 in the second.
It was the third quarter where it all fell apart for the Heat and there was a real chance they would lose at home to the team with the third-worst record in the NBA. Butler by then had been ruled out for the rest of the night and Adebayo was back to the bench with an early offensive foul (his fourth) after making an immediate impact to help Miami score the first six points.
They opened up their biggest lead of the night at that point with the score 68-54 five minutes into the second half on a PJ Tucker layup, but the Pistons would go on a monster 19-0 run to turn the game around while not allowing the Heat, which missed 14 consecutive shots, to score again in the quarter. Even though they had good looks at the basket, Miami only scored 11 points in their lowest scoring third quarter of the season and they shot 2-13 (11%) from the field and earned just one free throw.
It was looking bleak for the home team before Max Strus, who played his first minutes of the night late in the third in place of the struggling Duncan Robinson, scored the Heat’s first 13 points to open the final quarter to spark his team.
Max came out on FIRE in the 4th and helped us get the W. 16 points all in that quarter. pic.twitter.com/KNUdTk57cc— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 16, 2022
He would go on to score 16 on 6-9 FG shooting, all in the fourth, to join forces with Adebayo, freed from the bench and clearly energized during crunch time, and Herro, who scored a team-high 29 points on 8-15 FGs, to lead the team to victory.
Seriously, what else can we say about Boy Wonder? pic.twitter.com/6uPo0jYPDs— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 16, 2022
Miami would go on to score 37 points for their highest fourth quarter output of the season to run away with the game. They increased their lead to 2.5 games over the idle Milwaukee Bucks at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Jerami Grant had 22 points to lead Detroit, but it was rookie Isaiah Livers (16 points, 6-7 FG shooting in 32 minutes off the bench) who arguably was the more impressive player tonight. Marvin Bagley III and Saddiq Bey each scored 13.
Another lottery-bound team awaits the Heat next, with the Oklahoma City Thunder rolling into town for a Friday night game at the FTX Arena at 8:00pm.