In a touching moment, the Heat sent Dwyane Wade a digital team picture on Tuesday morning letting the shooting guard know how much his mates missed him.
Later that night, the sentiment was driven home again, but in a different way. The Heat lost 108-91 to the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills, and the Heat’s four guards combined to score eight points. With Wade back at home in Miami with a sprained right hamstring, the Heat’s backcourt generated almost nothing offensively in one of the team’s more revealing losses in the last few weeks.
“For us and this ballclub with Dwyane not here with us, we know the formula and we know what formula definitely won’t work,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “This definitely won’t work when you get out-competed and you give up 108 points with almost 50 percent shooting.”
Heat power forward Chris Bosh had 34 points and center Hassan Whiteside had 11 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in 25 minutes, but Miami’s backcourt simply wasn’t up to the task.
With star guard Brandon Jennings out with a season-ending injury, the Pistons’ starting backcourt of D.J. Augustin and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope outscored the Heat’s starting guards 43-1. Heat rookie Shabazz Napier started his third consecutive game for the Heat, but only played 15 minutes. He didn’t take a shot; never went to the free-throw line. Heat starting shooting guard Mario Chalmers scored one point.
“For the majority of the game, we just couldn’t get a handle on Augustin,” Spoelstra said. “He was just going wherever he wanted to go, and pretty much dominated the game.”
Led by Augustin, the Pistons had 22 points off of fast breaks and built a commanding lead early on with a 25-1 run to end the first quarter.
“They were just coming off the pick-and-rolls,” offered Napier, “and we were just digging down too deep and rotating too quickly.”
But the problems seemed a little more complex than simple pick-and-roll defense. Augustin had 25 points and 13 assists, Caldwell-Pope had 18 points and reserve guard Jodie Meeks had 10 points off the bench. All told, the Heat’s guards were outscored 56-8, and Miami’s leading scorer out of the backcourt was rookie Tyler Johnson, who is playing on a 10-day contract. Johnson had just five points in 21 minutes.
“The lesson that we have to learn on the road is that we can’t win like this,” Spoelstra said.
The Heat, now 13-12 on the road, dropped to eighth in the Eastern Conference standings with the loss. The Heat and Hornets have identical records (21-27), but Charlotte holds the tiebreaker and moved ahead of the Heat in the standings on Tuesday night.
Heat forward Luol Deng — out since the Heat’s victory against the Bulls on Jan.25 — returned from his calf injury and had 10 points, five rebounds and three assists. Chris Andersen had 12 points and five rebounds off the bench and Danny Granger had 10 points in 17 minutes.
The Heat trailed by double digits the entire second half, and for most of that time the Heat’s four guards were stuck on a combined four points with Johnson leading the motley crew with three points. Johnson is on his second 10-day contract with the Heat, and fighting to earn a permanent spot with the struggling team for the remainder of the season.
Backup point guard Norris Cole, who has struggled offensively for most of the season, scored his first and only points of the game in his 30th minute of action. His driving layup cut the Pistons’ lead to 95-83 with 5:21 remaining in the game, but the Pistons (19-30) answered with a quick 6-0 run to put the game away.
Bosh scored 19 points in third quarter but it helped little. He went 14 of 23 from the field overall.
Whiteside registered five rebounds, four points and two blocks before picking up his second foul with 5:07 left in the first quarter. The game was tied at 11-11 when Whiteside walked to the bench in foul trouble. The Pistons then went on a 22-1 run to end the first quarter.
“They played at a much harder, competitive pace than we did, and that set the tempo for the rest of the game on both ends of the court,” Spoelstra said.
Next for Heat: at Timberwolves
When/where: 8 p.m., Target Center, Minneapolis.
TV/radio: SUN Sports; WAXY 104.3 FM, 790 AM and WAQI 710 AM (Spanish).
Series: Heat leads 29-21.
Noteworthy: For the Heat, Luol Deng (calf) returned to action on Tuesday in Detroit and is probable for Wednesday’s game in Minneapolis. Dwyane Wade (hamstring) currently is not with the team. Minnesota (8-40) has the NBA worst record. Ricky Rubio returned to action on Monday against Dallas after missing 42 games with a sprained left ankle. Guard Mo Williams also returned on Monday after missing two games with a sore left hip. Guard Zach LaVine is questionable with a sprained ankle. Robbie Hummel is out indefinitely with a fractured right hand. Shabazz Muhammad (strained outer oblique) is out indefinitely.