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Pistons vs. Heat preview: Last stand before Pistons hit the road

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Detroit looks to go 5-0 on their early five-game homestand

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Quality NBA teams find a way to win even when they’re not at their best. That’s exactly what happened the last time the Detroit Pistons took the floor. Detroit squandered a 19 point lead, and found themselves in a dog fight with one of the weakest teams in the entire league in the Atlanta Hawks. Luckily for the Pistons, Reggie Jackson did some Reggie Jackson type things, hitting two clutch three pointers late, and they escaped with a win. It was their fourth straight overall and fifth straight at Little Caesars Arena. And while the phrase “took care of business” is a bit cliche, that’s exactly what Detroit did on Friday night.

Next up, the Miami Heat, who have under-performed so far in this young season. The Pistons can’t afford to take a 25-minute nap, like they did against the Hawks. These Heat are too experienced. Over the course of last season, the Heat have shown the ability to be one of the best clutch-time teams in the NBA. They’re also currently boasting the third ranked isolation offense in the league.

When you take a look at the Pistons upcoming schedule, it’s brutal. Check it out for yourself. A win against the (currently) struggling Miami Heat would be crucial for the continued confidence of this club, and add some much needed cushioning in the win column before they hit the road.

Who are the Miami Heat?

The fuego from Miami’s historic turn around run last season has cooled, as they’ve started the 2017-18 campaign 6-6 (*pats self on back for inserting a temperature pun*). The Heat are currently boasting a bottom tier offense, averaging 100.2 points per 100 possessions, which currently stands as the 25th ranked offense. They’re shooting 35 percent from three (ranked No. 19), and turn the ball over an astounding 17.3 times per game (No. 28).

Their best big, Hassan Whiteside, has already been benched for lack of effort. Dion Waiters has cooled off from three, shooting 33 percent this year compared to 40 percent last season. And Justise Winslow’s production has taken a considerable tumble - he’s averaging 6.8 points and 1.6 assists, compared to 10.9 points and 3.7 assists in the 2016-17 season. Winslow’s shooting numbers have actually considerably improved, he’s averaging a career best 31 percent from three and 47 percent effective field goal percentage...

With all that being said, the Heat have won their last two games, trouncing the helpless Phoenix Suns, and downing the Utah Jazz in a defensive slugfest. Both Detroit and Miami were supposed to be teams battling for to make the playoffs. Miami looks par for the course. Detroit, well they just keep on winning.

Marquee Match-up

Goran Dragic v. Reggie Jackson

Dragic has been low-key outstanding so far this season. He’s averaging 20 points per game, while shooting 37 percent from three and 47 percent from the floor. Dragic is also chipping in 4.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. He’s the consummate floor general, who’s not only leading his team in scoring, he’s finding guys in favorable spots, and knows when to differ to the hot hand. Dragic has been a model of consistency, having only one game where he’s failed to score at least 17 points. If the Heat find a way to win this game, Dragic will have plenty to do with it.

There may not have been a more scrutinized player last season than Reggie Jackson. He was the scapegoat for most of Detroit’s issues. He was thrown out to play when he clearly wasn’t 100 percent healthy, and never found his form before he was shut down towards the end of the 2016-17 season. Well, he’s back and better than ever.

Reggie’s numbers aren’t jaw dropping by any means (16.3 points, 6.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds), but it’s the way in which he’s produced that’s been so impressive. He’s embraced the motion offense, primarily ran through Andre Drummond. He’s played hot potato with the rock, looking to get Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley going before looking for his own shot. And he’s picked his spots beautifully when attacking opposing defenses. He’s shooting 37 percent from three, averaging 50 percent effective field goal percentage and nabbing 1.2 steals per game, all a career best. His activity on defense is apparent, and his newfound offensive identity has been a sight for sore eyes. There’s no reason to think Jackson’s productivity will stop, so expect another stellar performance from Detroit’s All-Star caliber point guard.

Prediction

Detroit 104, Miami 100