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Pistons at Heat preview: The injury bug blues

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With the potential return of Avery Bradley and Stanley Johnson likely out with a strained hip, the Pistons need to continue getting big performances from unlikely places.

Pistons vs Heat Preview Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

Whoever did the New Years toast for the Pistons must’ve forgotten “health” before saying “happiness.”

Despite the potential of getting Avery Bradley back tonight (which is still very much up in the air as of this writing), it was reported that Stanley Johnson is now suffering from a strained hip flexor, missing practice yesterday and, according to Stan Van Gundy, is doubtful for tonight’s game in Miami.

If Bradley isn’t ready to go, this would put the Pistons in a very precarious position tonight on the defensive end, already missing Reggie Jackson and now Stanley Johnson with nowhere for Ish Smith’s size to hide.

Deep breaths.

On the bright side, Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard have been superb filling in and stepping up while guys heal. Let’s hope that continues.

The Miami Heat (19-17) have been scrappy this season thanks to James Johnson and Bam Adebayo stepping up alongside the usual solid play from Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic. But they too have been bitten by the injury bug recently, with Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters officially out and James Johnson now listed as questionable with an ankle injury.

Whiteside too has admitted to struggling in playing with a new left knee brace, so this game should be interesting, to say the least. Throw in the “Miami nightlife” factor and the fact that both teams haven’t played since last Saturday and your guess is as good as mine in terms of which Pistons team shows up.

Game Vitals

When: January 3, 7:30 p.m. EST

Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida

Watch: Fox Sports Detroit

Odds: Detroit +3

Analysis

The main event to watch for is Andre Drummond going against Hassan Whiteside. The last time these two saw each other, Whiteside went off in the second half, scoring 18 of his 20 points in the third and fourth quarters and torching Drummond consistently. Given what we know about Whiteside’s new knee brace, I expect Drummond to get the upper hand this game.

I really can’t believe I am about to write this, but I am honestly ecstatic for this Ish Smith versus Tyler Johnson. Ish has now posted 18 points in back to back starts since filling in for the injured Reggie Jackson, while Tyler Johnson has been averaging 17.6 points per game since starting for the Heat these past seven games.

Overall, I’d expect tonight’s game to be a fun competitive watch with so many guys deep on the roster getting a shot to showcase.

Projected Lineup

Detroit Pistons:

Ish Smith, Reggie Bullock, Anthony Tolliver, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond

Miami Heat:

Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Kelly Olynk, Hassan Whiteside

Prediction

Fun little gambling fact, the total has gone UNDER in 11 of the Pistons last 15 games and similarly for the Heat, the total has gone UNDER in 15 of their last 19. So I expect this one to go over (196.5) with a close Pistons W: 108 - 103.