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Pistons vs. Heat final score: Whiteside tips in game winner, Pistons lose 97-96

Bye playoffs.

NBA: Miami Heat at Detroit Pistons Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

Before the game tonight, Stan Van Gundy called it “As close to a must win as I've probably had in the regular season” and said “This is it tonight, really, for us.” Well.

The Pistons fourth quarter comeback attempt came up just short as Hassan Whiteside tipped in a game winner to hand the Pistons their fifth straight loss. With seven games remaining and two games out of the playoff picture, they face an uphill climb back into it.

After playing from behind from early in the second quarter, the Pistons made a nice push in the fourth quarter. Their bench went on a quick eight point run behind Tobias Harris’ scoring and Aron Baynes’ toughness to make it a one point game with eight minutes remaining.

But James Johnson is going to be a free agent this offseason and Detroit really ought to consider signing him, just so they don’t have to play against him anymore. He gave the Heat a nice cushion back, highlighted with a powerful dunk over Marcus Morris that sent one of the Pistons’ toughest guy to the ground.

Both teams kept it tight down the stretch, with the game tied at the two minute mark. But after Hasaan Whiteside split a pair of free throws, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope put the Pistons up two with a clutch three with 45 seconds remaining.

The Heat flubbed the following inbound possession as Rodney McGruder inexplicably missed the pass. Ish Smith brought it up from there and nailed a big jumper to put the Heat down four with just 30 seconds left.

Stanley Johnson bailed out the Heat on the following inbound pass by getting to close and giving the Heat a freebie. Goran Dragic followed it up with a bunny. One point game.

James Johnson made a nice defensive play on Stanley Johnson to bring a trap and force a jump ball. Heat win the jump and get a timeout after a near KCP steal with 11 seconds remaining.

James Johnson got up a nice look with six seconds left, missed. Dragic grabbed the offensive rebound and got up a shot that just rimmed off...and Whiteside knocked it in as time expired.

It was a pretty brutal minute for the younger Johnson as his mental miscues gave the elder Johnson a chance to bury him with them.

The Pistons are left with little margin for error as the season winds down. Next up is the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, who kicked off this losing streak with a buzzer beater of their own.