Detroit is playing competent basketball but after giving away a game in Chicago, the Pistons face the buzz saw known as the defending NBA champion Miami Heat. This is a preview of the upcoming game and an official game thread will appear later today.
The Pistons are definitely better than they were at the beginning of the season but everything will need to be firing on all cylinders to best the Heat. Sort of like how the Pistons performed in the last meeting of these teams when Detroit won 109-99 thanks to a 25-10 performance from Will Bynum and solid contributions from the bench.
In that game, the notably shallow Heat were without Dwyane Wade and couldn't get enough contributions form LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The Pistons shot a season-high 58 percent from the field and outscored the Heat bench 64-20. It was perhaps exciting Pistons game this season.
Can they repeat?
Keys to the Game
Bench must come up big again: While no one would have predicted the bench explosion we saw Dec. 28, it wasn't entirely unexpected. The Pistons core strengths are also the Heat's biggest weaknesses. Detroit is deep in mediocre players while the Heat are top heavy. The bench also features an elite rebounder (Drummond) and solid 3-point threats in Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye. Those are Miami's biggest defensive deficiencies.
If the Pistons are going to win again they need all of the above players to contribute and they need Bynum to again destroy the defense and not self-destruct the Detroit offense.
Who guards LeBron?: Lawrence Frank and coaches before him have loved to put Tayshaun Prince on James. But Miami loves to go small with James at the four. Frank needs to resist the urge to go small with Miami with Prince playing power forward. Detroit needs to play Drummond, Monroe and Villanueva (if he is hitting shots) big minutes so he will need to find someone to try and contain LeBron.
Stuckey > Singler: I like Kyle Singler in the starting lineup but he does not match up well against the Heat. He's had trouble staying in front of guards all year and asking him to go up against Wade is asking for trouble. Wade will be able to blow by the rookie and will get plenty of favorable calls from the refs. Frank shouldn't be afraid to go to Stuckey and put the ball in his hands. The Pistons need to limit turnovers and that might mean limiting the role of Brandon Knight.
How many games until Jonas Jerebko comes out of hibernation?