The Detroit Pistons have been outscored 70-33 in the past two fourth quarters. It’s no surprise that the team has lost both contests even as they entered the final frame with sizable leads in both games. In Sunday’s contest against the Los Angeles Lakers, the LeBron James-Isaiah Stewart scuffle and ejections weakened Detroit’s defense and woke the Lakers up. Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena, the Miami Heat didn’t suddenly wake up after playing poorly, they just continued the suffocating defense they’d played all night, hit some big shots and Detroit couldn’t buy a bucket. It was less a fourth quarter collapse and more bowing to the inevitable. But that doesn’t mean it hurts any less.
The Heat employed various full- and three quarter-court defenses to slow break the Pistons’ rhythm and make them work with a short clock. Once in the halfcourt, the Heat deployed a mix of zone looks and man pressures to limit Detroit’s ability to penetrate the interior of the Heat’s defense.
On several occasions passes never crossed the 3-point line, on others the Pistons were forced into dangerous cross-court looks as small driving lanes were cut off. And sometimes a team light on ball handlers and missing Killian Hayes simply made poor decisions.
That includes Cade Cunningham who played his worst game as a member of the Pistons since he got healthy. Cunningham committed four turnovers, and most were straight up awful decisions. He compounded that with an ice-cold showing from the floor. Cade was limited to 2-of-10 from the field and 1-of-7 from 3. None of his misses looked particularly good. It was just one of those nights for the rookie.
All that being said, the Pistons consistently had the lead through three quarters of action, often hovering between 4 and 11 points. They did this thanks to a quick start from Saddiq Bey who had 11 of his 16 points in the first quarter. The Pistons also began the game hitting their perimeter shots, which helped them overcome the Heat zone.
In the first half, the Pistons hit 9-of-24 threes including three from Bey and a pair from Frank Jackson. The Pistons were +19 from distance compared to a the struggling Heat offense and went into the break with a 53-46 lead.
In the second half, the Pistons hit just one shot from deep and shot just 37% from the floor overall. They also got absolutely battered on the boards 31-15 as the team was down Isaiah Stewart and Kelly Olynyk and had to rely on Luka Garza, Trey Lyles and a bunch of wing players to grab the caroms.
The Pistons could have survived struggling in one major department, but not all three of the overall shooting, three-point shooting and board battle. And once the dam broke, it absolutely decimated Detroit in the fourth quarter. The Pistons scored just 16 points in the final frame. Tyler Herro, meanwhile, notched 14 by himself including 3-of-4 from deep to get the final Miami rally into gear. Herro finished with 31 on the night.
Garza, getting his first NBA start, did almost enough on offense to cover for his defensive shortcomings. That’s about all you can ask for when a late second-round pick is pressed into starting at center in the NBA. He scored all 7 of his points in a two-minute span, but was limited to just three rebounds and committed five fouls in his 17 minutes of action.
Starting in place of the injured Killian Hayes, Cory Joseph had 9 points, 9 assists and three steals. He struggled to penetrate Miami’s zone consistently, but then again, who didn’t?
After that quick burst from Bey, the only players who could do anything against Miami was Jerami Grant (21 points including 8 from the charity stripe) who could create just enough separation to hit some long jumpers and was able to snake through the zone and get some decent shots at the rim.
Hamidou Diallo also had another nice showing on the floor, using his energy and athleticism to great effect. He was 5-of-7 from the field for 10 points. He also added to his ongoing highlight reel with a couple nice looks at the rim, contested rebounds and another vicious blocked shot. Diallo has certainly earned more rotation minutes going forward.