There’s something about New Year's Day which traditionally brings out the best in the Miami Heat.
It did again for a half Sunday night. Then, the Heat just regressed to the new norm.
Playing with only nine healthy bodies in uniform and with three starters out – including center Hassan Whiteside for the first time this season – Miami dropped its fifth in a row and eight of nine overall with a 107-98 loss to Detroit Pistons at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Miami (10-15) made its first eight shots, scored a season-high 37 points in the first quarter and by halftime was 10 of 15 from three-point range and shooting 64.9 percent from the field, the best shooting half of the season for one of the worst shooting teams in the league.
Despite all the great shooting, the Heat’s lead was only 66-58 at the break, leaving ample room for the Pistons (16-20) to rally.
“They [the Pistons] played better,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of what changed for the Heat in the second half. “I think, to be fair, we probably ran out of gas a little bit. Not as an excuse, but we played guys big minutes. [We got] some of the same looks and we weren’t to able to knock them down. I told the guys there’s nothing to be ashamed of in this game. We just got outplayed down the stretch. So, we’ll just get ready for the West Coast road trip.”
James Johnson led the Heat with 20 points and seven rebounds off the bench, Wayne Ellington added 18 and the duo combined to make eight of the team’s 14 three-pointers, which tied a team season-high. But Detroit’s Reggie Jackson (27 points, 4 assists), Andre Drummond (25 points, 18 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (23 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) were too much in the second half.
“I love the way they play,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said of the Heat. “The way they move the ball and get through things quickly. We needed to get them slowed down a little, which I thought we did in the second half. They shot the ball great. It was good to be able to overcome that. We did enough offensively to stay in the game.”
Detroit, which had lost seven of eight games coming in, took its first lead of the game at 75-73 when Caldwell-Pope capped an 11-0 run with a 16-foot pullup jumper with 4:01 left in the third quarter.
The Heat countered with back-to-back threes from Wayne Ellington and James Johnson to regain the lead. But Caldwell-Pope, who scored 12 points in the period, helped Detroit close the quarter on a 10-2 run and the Pistons rolled from there.
Miami, which shot 25 percent in the second half (10 of 40), didn’t score its first point of the fourth quarter until Derrick Williams made the back-end of a pair of free throws with 6:55 remaining. By then, Detroit was up 91-82 and in control the rest of the way.
“I think we were getting good looks the second half. It wasn't like our offense was completely stagnant,” said Richardson, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the first quarter and matched a career-high with eight assists. “But I think they picked up their defense up a little bit. I still think we were getting good looks. It just wasn’t dropping.”
Sunday’s loss was the first time Miami has lost on New Year’s Day. The Heat is now 6-1 all-time on Jan. 1.