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Heat bring dormant playoff feel to the Palace

The Pistons are a very respectable 12-4 since their 100-98 loss to Miami on February 12. But during that same stretch, the Miami Heat are tearing up the league's have-nots at a 14-1 clip.During that stretch, the Heat have played only two teams over .500 and have feasted upon the weak Eastern Conference, playing only 3 games against the West. Dwayne Wade thinks it has everything to do with that win over the Pistons, a game that saw the Heat rally from down 13 in the fourth quarter:

''Confidence is big, not only in basketball but in life,'' said Wade, who scored the Heat's last 17 points in the win against Detroit. "To know that we can come back against a team like that after getting beat pretty badly versus Dallas a couple nights before, it really helped our confidence out, and we've been rolling ever since. Hopefully we'll continue to do it."

Umm...I'll sidestep the ridiculous "not only in basketball but in life" comment, because making fun of Dwayne Wade is not the point of this post. The point is that ever since that fourth-quarter comback, Wade and the Heat have emerged from their early and mid-season turmoil to regain their position as "team most likely to meet Detroit in the East finals." There's no chance that they overtake the Pistons for homecourt advantage in the East, but given the play of the two teams as of late, a series win over the Heat in the playoffs seems far less preordained.

As for tomorrow night's Pistons/Heat matchup at the Palace--look, I'd like some measure of revenge for the February 12 meltdown in South Beach as much as the next fan. And I'd love to believe that a comfortable victory tomorrow night would foreshadow the Pistons coasting through the East to the finals. But I wouldn't read too much into the winner of this game. There's no doubt that playoff intensity will be there; the Pistons' next four games are all against playoff teams that have beaten them previously this season (Miami, Indiana, New Jersey, and Dallas). But the Heat will be playing their second game in two nights, always a struggle for Kazaam and Zo, and back-to-back games are an inconvenience rarely faced in the playoffs. If you are looking for a better barometer as to how these two teams stack up as the playoffs approach, compare tonight's game with the Heat/Pistons matchup on April 6th in Miami. Should the Pistons look good in winning both games, the eternal optimist in me might start mentally engraving that Eastern Conference trophy.

Until then, let's hope the Boys in Blue can shake their "dog days" slump and come with it during these next couple weeks. Statement wins over the Heat, Pacers, Nets, Mavs, and Suns should serve notice to potential playoff opponents like Gilbert Arenas and Jermaine O'Neal that the Pistons play of late was nothing but a tease.

Wade: team improving
[Miami Herald]