The Pistons lost a stomach-punch game to the Heat, allowing a double-digit lead entering the fourth quarter to dwindle before losing by two. Dwyane Wade scored Miami's final 17 points to finish with a season-high 37 to go along with eight rebounds and four assists. Shaquille O'Neal scored 21 in the first half and finished with a season-high 31.
It's hard to pin down what exactly went wrong for Detroit aside from a series of breakdowns late in the game. A team that scored 59 in the first half mustered just 39 in the second, including a dismal 14-point fourth. Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace all topped 20 points, but Tayshaun Prince shot just 2-12 from the field to finish with five, with a last-second three-point try to win clanging out to end the game. But the loss is hardly Tay-Tay's fault -- the entire team just lost its flow in the fourth as Miami turned up the pressure to win their first game of the season against one of the league's top four teams.
Detroit still holds a one-game lead over the Spurs and a two-game lead over the Mavericks, and they can at least take solace in the fact that those two teams will beat up on each other two more times, not to mention play two more games apiece against the Phoenix Suns, who currently sport the league's fourth-best record at 33-17.
The Pistons host the Nets on Tuesday before breaking for the All-Star week in Houston. After returning, they host the Hawks and Pacers before going to Chicago and then returning for a home-and-home against the Cavs.
Look at that schedule again -- of the next five opponents, four of them beat Detroit the last time they've played. The Pistons are just 4-4 in their last eight, and given the way the Mavs and Spurs have been playing, this is as important of a stretch in the season as any.