Bringing the Heat
Miami’s 5-minute fury turns Pistons lead upside down in a hurry
MIAMI – The Pistons outplayed Miami for about as many minutes as the Heat outplayed them on a partying Friday night in South Beach. But when the Heat were better, they were at their best, which is to say they were great. They were NBA championship-level, Dream Team, Harlem Globetrotters good, led by their two future Hall of Famers playing Hall of Fame basketball.
The Pistons led Miami by nine four minutes into the second quarter, 43-34. Barely five minutes later, Miami led 54-45 – a 20-2 run that was nothing but a flurry of Pistons turnovers and Miami dunks, elbows at the rim. Dwyane Wade scored 17 of his 29 in the second quarter and LeBron James added nine and they made 11 of their 13 shots in a devastating tsunami of basketball.
“They energize the crowd, they energize their teammates,” Greg Monroe said after the 110-88 decision of the turnovers – the Pistons committed seven of their 19 miscues in the quarter and the Heat converted them into 12 points in the quarter, 26 for the game. “They were timely. They changed the momentum. It’s something we have to do a better job of controlling.”
Wade, who sat out the Dec. 28 meeting at The Palace when the Pistons won 109-99, was Miami’s catalyst, making a handful of highlight-reel plays, including a shot flung with his left hand as he was sent crashing to the court after pump-faking Austin Daye off of his feet.
The only humbling moments Wade experienced came at Andre Drummond’s hands in the fourth quarter when the 7-foot rookie, caught playing Wade one on one after switching on to him off of pick-and-roll situations, stripped him twice, turning one into a dunk and the other into a pair of free throws.
“Good hands, young fella,” Drummond said Wade told him. Drummond also blocked a Wade dunk attempt moments later.
“He guarded Wade as well as anyone,” said Lawrence Frank, displeased with a defense that allowed Miami to shoot 56 percent and score 56 points in the paint. “I’m not saying it jokingly. Wade’s a great player. He’s coming off a 35-point game, but Andre had some good things he did there.”
If Drummond stands out as the bright spot on the defensive end with two blocks and three steals to go with seven boards, Monroe stood in just as stark a contrast offensively, the only Pistons starter and one of only two Pistons in double figures with 31 points and 12 rebounds.
Monroe carried them in both the first and third quarters, scoring 13 and 14 points in those periods. But the bench that put up 64 points in the December win over Miami on a night Rodney Stuckey wasn’t available with a sprained ankle couldn’t come close to matching that level of production this time around in the second and fourth quarters. It was the bench that was out there when Miami surged.
They managed 36 points, but that was padded when Frank let them play the whole fourth quarter and even brought Kim English and Jonas Jerebko on in the final minutes. Will Bynum, who torched the Heat for 25 points a month ago, contributed 13, but Stuckey had just four and Charlie Villaneuva two as they made 3 of 11 shots.
“Will put on a highlight show against them (at The Palace),” Frank said. “This is the defending champs, a prideful group. They were very aggressive with their blitzes, which is fine – then you can play four on three. They were able to put a small on Charlie and that small could be LeBron James or Shane Battier. You saw how Andre didn’t get those roll dunks tonight. That’s why they’re one of the elite teams. We have to find different ways to be better.”
When the Pistons weren’t handing the ball to Miami, they were pretty good themselves offensively. For much of the game, they shot better than 50 percent, including a 31-point first quarter in which they hit 12 of 18. They just couldn’t dig in defensively because the turnovers put them on their heels.
“They came out with fire tonight,” Bynum said. “They kind of hit us in the beginning and we were playing catchup. D-Wade kind of took over. LeBron was his usual self. It’s just tough to defend when they’re playing like that.”
“We just gave up so many easy baskets,” Frank said. “Just look at the amount of paint opportunities, straight-line drives into it. Never once did I think we made them feel uncomfortable at all. It was a very comfortable game for them. When you think about the number of good possessions, that’s not a good thing when you want to be a defense-first team.”