The Detroit Pistons are a disappointing 7-10 and ... are about to be 7-11. I mean, honestly, what else should one expect when facing off against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. They are 14-3 ... though their three losses have come against some decidedly shitty teams -- the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. Maybe the Pistons are going to be right in this thing!
But back in reality, the Heat, while not dominating anyone so far this regular season, have won 10 in a row and should be able to dispatch the Pistons on their home court. Oh, and they're beating teams during that winning streak by an average of 12.5 points.
They are doing this behind the usual suspects -- the otherworldly LeBron James, a healthy Dwyane Wade, and under-appreciated Chris Bosh. They are also getting a nice contribution from Michael Beasley, who is chipping in 10.5 points per game during the team's 10-game win streak.
As a team, the Heat should be able to do whatever they want against the hapless Pistons perimeter defense. The Heat are shooting 54.9 percent on 2-pointers (first in the NBA) and an eye-popping 41.8 percent on 3s. Defensively, Detroit ranks near the bottom in both categories. During its current 10-game win streak, Miami has six players shooting over 40 percent from long range, including starters James and Bosh.
If they are vulnerable, the Heat's defense has yet to step up so far this season. I'm thinking that they're waiting until the playoffs or signature regular-season games to crank it up a notch. The Heat heir biggest Achilles' heel, however, is rebounding. Miami snares only 43.6 boards per game, bottom of the league. This is because of both a lack of size and because their spacing and elite offense creates few offensive rebounding opportunities.
Detroit, meanwhile, has been one of the better rebounding squads in the league. The Pistons' plus-6.1 rebound differential since Nov. 20 is first in the East, thanks to its oversized trio of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith.
Keys to the Game
Drumroe -- Monroe and Drummond are going to need to feast on the boards and give the Pistons second chances, because they aren't likely to convert at a high percentage. Also, both need to deliver on the offensive end, and there will be opportunities as the Heat aren't shy about playing small. Monroe had some of his best games against the Heat last season, averaging 20 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 59.5 percent. Also important -- he led the Pistons in shot attempts. It would be nice if that were also the case tonight. As for Drummond, it will be interesting what he does for an encore after his Hakeem-esque performance against the Sixers.
Perhaps Drummond should have expected to feast on the undersized, undermanned Philly squad. But the Heat are another story. If Miami has to resort to Hack-a-Dre, well, at least something about the game will be enjoyable (Drummond domination) and opposing fans will have to sit through the abomination that is endless intentional fouls (we don't need to go through how lame the typical lower-bowl sitting, regular season Heat crowds are).
Josh Smith -- Where to begin? Well, Smith has been atrocious defending the perimeter and both James and James Jones could light him up from deep ... constantly. He's also not shy about leaving his defensive assignment as he easily gets sucked into the lane. The Heat are an exceptional passing team and should be able to exploit any and all defensive lapses by Smith and his teammates. The one saving grace is that Smith goes to where the action is and the action will constantly go through his primary defensive assignment -- James. Hopefully he can step up big and frustrate the high-scoring James much as he did against Carmelo Anthony earlier in the season.
Chris Bosh -- sometimes I have hunches about who will have a big game against Detroit, and I have one of those feelings tonight about Bosh. He's played well of late as his jumper has been on point. The Pistons' chaotic defense is prone to leave big men open at mid-range and, well, Bosh is extremely capable of making them pay for it.
Question of the Game
Is it Dec. 15 yet? The smart people know what I mean ...