After a disappointing loss to the Houston Rockets Saturday, a game many thought would end the Detroit Pistons' epic losing streak, Detroit is starring down the barrel of history. A loss tonight to the visiting Miami Heat would set a new single-season losing record for our young Detroit Pistons. They are currently tied, with 14 losses, for the franchise's worst ever single season losing streak, set at the end of the 1979-80 season.
The Piston simply need a win tonight, while this team has looked lethargic and disinterested at times, it can’t be good for the teams moral to have to deal with the baggage of a losing streak like this. Luckily for the Pistons, the Heat will enter the night without All-Star pairing; Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler. Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Tyler Herro, has also been listed as questionable.
When: 6 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +6
At this point of the losing streak, it’s hard to come up with any analysis that could see your 4-24 Detroit Pistons winning a game. The roster assembled over the 2021 summer by the front office was deficient to begin with. Now, with major injuries to key veterans; Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk, the team being rolled out on the court is completely out of its depth.
While it’s expected that any young team would struggled with consistency, amid this losing streak, it feels as though Detroit can never string together a full four quarter performance. If they play good defense, they shoot historically bad on offense. If they shoot and move the ball well on offense, they can’t rebound, giving opponents second chance look and after second chance look.
But, for all the doom and gloom the losing streak has brought, a fair portion of the fan base knew this season would be about development and draft positioning. Thus far, Detroit has nailed the ‘draft positioning’, sitting a top of all mock drafts and my personal favourite website, tankathon.com.
The developmental aspect of this season has been slow for the quartet of Piston sophomores. Each of; Hayes, Bey, Stewart and Lee has had their fair share of struggles in the first 20-plus games of the season. However, recently each player has began to string together some nice performances. Killian Hayes is fresh off an 8-point, 10-assist game. Saben Lee is averaging 11.3 points, 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals since being given the backup point guard minutes. Saddiq Bey has put together back-to-back 20+ point games since deciding to don a headband, and Isaiah Stewart has began to look more like ‘rookie Stew’ in recent weeks.
Cade Cunningham has continued his efficient play, quietly putting together an impressive stretch of games:
Cade Cunningham over his last 8 games:— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) December 19, 2021
80% FT pic.twitter.com/VEj0ZsSIAF
With Evan Mobley entering health and safety protocols, Cunningham has a chance to overtake Mobley as the favourite for Rookie of the Year (if not already). Amid a rough month of Piston basketball, Cunningham’s play has been the shining light. In the past 8 games, we have seen the comfortability which the star rookie has as a primary initiator and creator on offense.
Miami enter the night sans two of their ‘Big 3’ with Adebayo and Butler both ruled out. Barring a 24-min stretch from Butler, the All-Star paring have missed the past nine games. Throughout this stretch, the Heat have managed to maintain a winning pace, with a record of 5-4.
Miami have been able to compensate for the missing talent by having a trio of mostly unknown players in; Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin, step up in the scoring department. Strus, Vincent and Martin have seen taken advantage of the increased opportunity, in the past nine games they have seen scoring upticks of +2.4ppg, +4.3ppg and the +6.4ppg, respectively. Both Strus and Vincent are fresh off career-high performances in the Heats victory over the Orlando Magic:
These UNDRAFTED players posted career highs to lead the Heat past the Magic— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 18, 2021
Max Strus ‣ 32 Pts, 8-11 3 PT FG
Gabe Vincent ‣ 27 Pts, 4 Ast pic.twitter.com/Vf9FLeG21n
Coach Erik Spoelstra has continued to validate his standing as one of the elite coaches in the association. Without their two best offensive weapons, the Heat have been able to maintain a top-10 offense, with an offensive net rating of 115.1 in thier past five games.
The Miami Heat organisation are known for finding and developing unknown commodities into solid NBA players, coach Spolestra and company seem to have done it again with the development of Strus and Vincent among others.
It will be interesting to see if the Heat implement a zone defense against the Pistons. In their first meeting of the season back in November, Detroit entered the final quarter with a 9 point lead. However, in the final term the Heat switched to a zone, suffocating the Pistons and outscoring them 33-16 and winning the game 100-92.
With the funk this Piston team is in every game is tough, no matter the talent on the opposing team. This game is no different, after a disappointing loss against the Rockets, look for Detroit to come out desperate for a win.
Detroit Pistons (4-24)
Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Hamidou Diallo, Isaiah Stewart
Miami Heat (18-12)
Kyle Lowry, Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, P.J. Tucker, Dewayne Dedmon
Question of the Game
Is there a more ‘average joe’ looking player than Max Strus that has, or is contributed on a playoff team?