On their second to last game of the season, on Tuesday the Miami Heat will go to frosty Detroit to play the Pistons, as they get ready to see where they fall in the post-season matchups and who they’ll be up against.
In the season series, this is the fourth and final game. The Heat lost the first two games during the first half of the season and then won 107-89 last week at the AmericanAirlines Arena, after getting 22 points from Dwyane Wade alone.
But the Heat have not been hot vs. the Detroit Pistons, having lost their past three visits, overall three of the last five meetings. The Heat are coming into the game being 3-9 in their last nine road games. They have no more home games, as they will end the season on a back-to-back road sched that ends on Wednesday against the Boston Celtics.
But they are coming off a nice win on Sunday where they beat the Magic 118-96. The Heat have been scoring 100 or more points in 19 of their last 21 games and since they are shooting on all cylinders they should continue having 100 plus games.
The Pistons will come off a three-day break, who haven’t played since Friday, when they won 112-99 against the Wizards. They are now 9-3 in their last 12 games overall, with victories in seven of their last nine home games.
Just like the Heat, the Pistons are closing out their regular-season with a tough games too on Wednesday, against Cleveland.
The Heat does have some injuries as Tyler Johnson has a shoulder injury, and Chris Bosh is out with a blood clot, with Justise Winslow questionable with ankle issues.
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, spoke with media about his project of rebuilding the Detroit Pistons back into a contender, he acknowledged that there’s still plenty of work to be done to reach that level.
But qualifying for the playoffs is a major step in that direction, and many fans believe is a coup this early in the rebuilding process. That’s exactly why he told reporters he doesn’t care who the Pistons play when the postseason begins.
The strange thing is, Miami could face the same opponent whether they open at home or on the road too. So the coach could be right for both teams. Overall the Heat have played a lot better in their own arena, and they will need to win their final two games at Detroit on Tuesday and in Boston on Wednesday to ensure they start on home court.
On the other side, most Detroit fans would probably rather face the Raptors instead of the Cavaliers, but snce Van Gundy doesn’t have a preference, they’ll be ready to play whomever they meet.
“Both those teams are really good, Toronto and Cleveland. I’m of the mindset that you always want to finish as high as you can finish,” Van Gundy said after Friday’s clinching win over the Washington Wizards. “It’s not a matter of I’d rather play Toronto or that I don’t want to play Cleveland.”
The Pistons who are 43-37 will be looking to ruin Miami’s chances for that home advantage, even knowing they’ll be traveling to either Cleveland or Toronto for their playoff opener. The only other team that can change their playoff ordering is Indiana, who will need to win one of its last two games to get the seventh seed, which would mean Detroit would face the Eastern Conference’s top team.
Sounds complicated, but it really isn’t to the teams. None of that will matters to either team, since securing a spot was their main goal.
“It’s huge for us. It’s huge for our organization,” Van Gundy said. “It’s a great milestone for them to get in and we hope this is just the start of bigger things. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and this is it.”
It’ll be the first playoff appearance for most of this Detroit team’s young core. It includes the 22-year-old standout Andre Drummond, who is leading the league with 66 double-doubles. Three coming in each meeting with the Heat. That included a 12-point, 13-rebound effort despite still losing 107-89 on the road last Tuesday to Miami.
But for the Pistons it was still a bright spot since it was one of only three defeats in their last 12 games, where Detroit was able to pull away from Chicago and Washington to get into the postseason by the seat of their pants.
“I was the backup before, we were always clinching at around 60 games (with Oklahoma City) and we always knew that we would be there,” said Jackson, who is averaging 26.5 points over his last four games. “We’re a young team, we’re growing together, we have a nice mixture of players who are very young and some older veterans who have been here. We’re just trying to figure this thing out.”
Dwyane Wade has won three championships with Miami but they had a bad season last year going 37-45 after LeBron James returned to Cleveland. Since, the Heat has improved drastically, even without Bosh.
Miami is tied with Boston for home advantage in a potential first-round series and if they win in Detroit they can lock it up in Wednesday’s matchup against the Celtics at TD Garden, but only if they can get past the Pistons.
“We’re going to go, we’re going to play two games, we’ll go out there and compete and whatever happens after that happens,” Wade said after scoring 17 points in Sunday’s 118-96 win over Orlando.
“If we start at home, it’s going to be great for this team. If we don’t, it’s going to be a great challenge. But either way we’re going to be preparing for the playoffs.”
It’s not clear if rookie Justise Winslow will be play after leaving in their last game with a sprained left ankle. Heats’ Coach Erik Spoelstra said Winslow will travel with the team, so he could be an effective asset, but only if he’s healthy.
“Most importantly, I’m going to try to be 100 percent (for the playoffs),” Winslow said. “I’ll see whether I can play through it Tuesday or Wednesday.”
The down to earth attitude of the Pistons put them in good position to win their last games as they get ready for an unpredictable NBA playoffs.
Our Pick: Pistons over Heat, 108-102