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Pistons vs Heat preview: Detroit returns home after three-game road trip

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The Pistons are back in Detroit tonight, up against the Miami Heat

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the past week of Pistons basketball could have gone better. Fortunately, this week is set up for the Pistons to do just that - starting with a winnable game against a Miami Heat team that isn’t where they want to be defensively this early in the year.

Of course, that’s never stopped the Pistons from losing games they should’ve won before.

Game Vitals:

When: November 5, 2018 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass

Things to watch for:

Blake Griffin, continuing to be a beast

Blake Griffin is averaging 28.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 4.5 assists a game, and continues to be the engine that drives the Pistons forward. The Miami Heat have no one on the roster capable of guarding Blake Griffin in the post (James Johnson, the closest thing they have, is out with a sports hernia, which is one of those things that sounds SUPER painful), and Dwane Casey has shown that he will drive any Blake mismatch into the dirt.

All that is to say, expect Blake Griffin to have a nice performance tonight.

Speaking of Heat injuries...

Who actually plays for Miami

Miami is dealing with injuries early this season:

The Heat have depth, but little top-end talent, as we talked about on the DBB Podcast with Nekias Duncan and Christian Hernandez before the season started. As such, they are better equipped than the average team to deal with injuries... except in the case of Hassan Whiteside. If Whitside can’t go tonight, that’s a big blow to the Heat - it means Bam Adebayo likely starts and Kelly Olynyk (the current starting power forward) is the only other “true” big man left to deal with Blake and Andre.

That Dragic injury also would have ripple effects - the Heat have put the ball in Josh Richardson’s hands more this season, but he’s still a guy who hunts his own shots more than he distributes. If the Pistons can slow Richardson while he’s the primary ballhandler, that bodes well for the rest of their defense.

Starting lineup changes

I reported on today’s DBB Podcast that Glenn Robinson III will be in the starting lineup in place of Stanley Johnson tonight. This move by Dwane Casey puts more shooting in the starting lineup and should help alleviate some of the slow starts that the Pistons have run into this season.

I, of course, wrote an entire piece on why GRIII should be starting all the way back in August, so this move will undoubtedly work and my take will not backfire in my face.

Stanley coming off the bench should be a good thing for him, as well. He gets to run in transition against other bench players, which is a better use of the skills he does have on offense than “stand around and wait” role he’s given next to the other starters. And Casey is still a defensive-minded coach at heart - I wouldn’t be surprised if Stanley ended the game (if it’s close) because of his defense.

All that is to say, this should be a win-win move for Detroit, one worth keeping a close eye on tonight.

Projected Lineups:

Detroit Pistons (4-4):
Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown, Glenn Robinson III, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond

Miami Heat (3-5):
Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, Hassan Whiteside

These are the types of games the Pistons need to win - at home, after a day of rest, against a team they’re expected to be in competition with for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It’s fine to lose to Boston and Philly, but you’ve got to win home games against the middle of the East to make the playoffs.