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Pistons vs. Heat preview: The pre-playoffs playoff

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The Detroit Pistons take on the Miami Heat Tuesday night in Miami, in a game that will have a playoff atmosphere.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Five games left. Magic number is three. The Pistons can't rely on the Chicago Bulls to lose three of their last five games so they'll need to take care of business. First up: the Miami Heat in Miami. A team that has clinched its playoff berth and is fighting for home court advantage in the first round.

Game Details

When: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 8:00 PM

Where: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL

Watch: TNT, Fox Sports Detroit

Game Analysis

BEAT THE HEAT!

The Pistons will face the Heat twice in their final five games. Though the Pistons will not be facing the Heat in the first round of the playoffs, they need to treat both of the games as if it were the playoffs. Miami has already clinched its spot in the playoffs, now they are just vying for home court advantage. They will not give these games away.

The Pistons are 2-0 against the Heat on the season and would clinch a "potential" tiebreaker by winning Tuesday's game. Miami has a better conference record, so it is important to have the better head-to-head record against Miami. However, the Pistons won those two games prior to some changes in the Miami lineup.

Since the last time we met the Heat, they have added Joe Johnson to the roster and their rookie NOT named Justice Winslow, Josh Richardson, has been playing extremely well. Johnson is shooting very well with Miami, averaging 9.8 field goals per game, his lowest since his fourth season in the league, with a shooting line of 51 / 43 / 79 with a third of his shots coming from distance. If there was an in-season most improved player, it could go to Richardson. Prior to Feb. 15, he was averaging 11.5 minutes per game and a shooting line of 26 / 20 / 69 on 2.3 shots per game. Since then, he's been getting 28 minutes per game with a shooting line of 53 / 59 / 62 on 7.5 shots per game. They are 15-8 over that time.

Over that same stretch of time, the Pistons have played nearly as well: 14-9. A lot of that can be attributed to the contributions Tobias Harris has made to the team since being acquired at the trade deadline.

With a win tonight, the Pistons will trim their playoff magic number down to two. With that in mind, the Pistons need to play one of their best games of the season.

Last we met

Dec. 22, 2015 in Miami - Pistons 93, Heat 92

This game was an up and down game. The Pistons trailed by 16 after the first quarter. They then led by two at the half thanks to a Reggie Jackson layup at the buzzer. As often is the case, the Pistons came out slow after halftime, trailing by three going into the final quarter. But a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three with under a minute to go put the Pistons up for good. KCP would finish the game a lousy 5-for-13 from the field (14 points) but held Dwyane Wade to 19 points on 8-for-21 shooting. Andre Drummond would record yet another double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Reggie Jackson would lead the Pistons in scoring with 18 on 8-for-16 shooting. Chris Bosh ate up Ersan Ilyasova for 20 points, though it came on 9-for-21 shooting. Hassan Whiteside got the best of Dre, getting a 16/16 on 7-for-13 shooting.

Players to Watch

Pistons: Andre Drummond

Whiteside is still getting the bulk of minutes at center for the Heat, but that is off the bench. The Heat have been starting Amar'e Stoudemire at center, and Andre has a chance to eat him up. In the two games against Miami so far this year, Drummond is averaging 14.5 points and 16 rebounds, both with Whiteside as the starter. Possibly due to Whiteside also being a poor free throw shooter, Miami does not go to Hack-A-Drummond as Dre's attempted just seven combined free throws in the two games (he's made three).

Heat: Joe Johnson

With the addition of Tobias Harris and Chris Bosh not being able to manhandle Ersan Ilyasova, I wanted to go with Chris Bosh. But whenever the Pistons face Joe Johnson, I get concerned. Looking at his averages, he really does not beat up on the Pistons. But it always seems that if the game is close, Johnson is going to hit the shot(s) to seal the game in his team's favor.

Starters

Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Harris, Drummond

Heat: Goran Dragic, Gerald Green, Luol Deng, Johnson, Stoudemire

Injuries

Pistons: N/A

Heat: Dwyane Wade (back/neck/old - ESPN says out, but Wade says he's feeling better and is officially questionable); UPDATE (6:26pm): The Twitterverse is reporting that Wade will indeed play tonight.

Community Question

Would a strong win by the Pistons, with or without Wade in the game, make you feel better about the Pistons odds to win a playoff series this year?