"I might suggest a third defender," responded Greg Monroe.
Having hit 9 of 9 three point shots on Wednesday night, Ben Gordon is in position to break an NBA record in consecutive three point field goals made. If he can hit four straight tonight, he'll match Brent Price and Detroit's own Terry Mills with the league record of 13. Any more, and he'll hold the record all to himself. Sadly, he'll have to do it against the Miami Heat in Detroit tonight, one of the league's premier defenders.
Game Tips Off at 7:30P.M. EST
Miami Heat: 34 - 11 (14 - 9 road)
Detroit Pistons: 16 - 30 (12 - 11 home)
Tonight could get ugly. The Miami Heat run the league's most efficient offense, connecting on 48.2% of their shots. They'll be running that offense against the league's second worst defenders, and a bad defensive effort tonight could push Detroit into the statistical basement of the league. Miami doesn't make it any easier on the other end, as they hold opponents to a stifling 42.4%. A win for Detroit will not be easy, and it will require a solid effort from every player in a Pistons uniform tonight.
The last time these teams met, that's precisely what happened. Greg Monroe played beautifully, punishing Joel Anthony with a 20 and 10 game in the middle along with a pair of well-timed takeaways from Lebron James. Rodney Stuckey scored 15 points on 5 field goal attempts (!) and, brace yourself, Austin Daye added 28 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Despite all of this effort, Detroit lost by 3 points to the Heat, 101-98. This is the kind of performance Detroit will have to repeat if it wants to handle the Heat. (oh and Feed-the-Moose fans, Greg Monroe attempted 14 more shots than Tayshaun Prince that night, the widest margin of his career! This is because Tay didn't play)
One thing to note about the Heat, is that beyond their big three, they're getting valuable contributions from just about every player on the roster not named Eddy Curry (touch it, Dave). The top nine in Miami's depth chart are all producing a net positive on the court. It's not difficult to do when you're playing with Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and... crap. What's his name... The funny-looking skinny guy that used to be the mascot for that team in Canada. Was it Whoopi Goldb-- no, that's not it. I can't remember his name for the life of me.
Keys to the Game:
Move the ball, spot up for threes: Miami's only defensive weakness is handling spot-up shooters (they're 24th according to Synergy). This poses a great opportunity for Ben Gordon, who should camp out on the wing while the other players move the ball. Look for the extra pass (I'm glaring at you, Tayshaun), run some inside-out plays with Moose, and allow Knight to penetrate and kick the ball out to Gordon or anyone else with a three-point stroke.
Feed the Moose: He was excellent in Miami in January, and he's in position for a repeat performance. Joel Anthony cannot handle Greg Monroe, so the team should look to feed the ball to Monrobocop early and often. Given Miami's weakness defending threes, allowing Monroe to direct traffic in the high post might get some spot up shooters the open looks they need.
Adjust the starting lineup: Go big tonight. Insert Jonas Jerebko into the starting lineup at the 3, with the responsibility of guarding Lebron James. Slide Tayshaun Prince to shooting guard to defend Dwyane Wade. Start Ben Gordon at point guard and split point duties between Gordon, Prince and Monroe. Bring Brandon Knight in to lead the second unit and pray that someone other than Greg Monroe can do some scoring up front.
Question of the Game:
I bet the Heat fan cashier at my grocery store $2 that Greg Monroe would dominate the frontcourt matchup between Detroit and Miami tonight. Am I going to be $2 richer tomorrow? If so, what should I spend it on?
Injury Update-- Rodney Stuckey will not play tonight, still hampered by his injured toe.