DETROIT – Five takeaways from the Heat’s disappointing 112-103 loss to the Detroit Pistons, which sent Miami home with a 3-3 record for the six-game road trip and dropped it back under .500.
1. Splitting the road trip is nice, but Heat could have had more with a better performance down the stretch.
The Heat built an 11-point lead with 7:03 left in the third quarter and looked like it would have a chance to finish its longest road swing of the season with a victory. The Pistons outscored the Heat 31-13 over the next nine minutes and 47 seconds. Detroit used a 10-0 run after the Heat cut the deficit to 93-92 to effectively put the game out of reach.
“We know what our identity is and as much as it looked like we could play that kind of game in the first half, a 48 minute game really has to be on our terms as far as the pace,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “ It was just a little bit too up and down, and they were able to really capitalize in some numbers situations, to open 3’s and they went on a roll on those. Seems like every time we were in any kind of numbers disadvantage, they also capitalized on those 3’s and made us pay for them.”
The Heat was outrebounded 42-30 despite Hassan Whiteside recording his fifth double-double in eight games this season when he finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
2. The Heat has continued to improve on the defensive end and it showed in the first half before the Pistons took control. By no means did the Heat come away from their longest road swing of the season empty-handed. Aside from going 3-3 in six games, the Heat has shown it is regaining its defensive identity. Despite giving up 112 points on Sunday to the Pistons, the Heat ranks fourth in the league defensive rating over its past six games (99.9) after entering the trip ranked 17th overall (104.9).
“I mean we grew, certainly, when we went out on this road trip 13 days ago I think we’re a better ball club now,” Spoelstra said. “Ultimately, that’s what you want. Of course right now, we feel like we could have finished the road trip a little bit better, we’ll be able to maintain the proper perspective on this as long as we’re continuing to get better, and like I said, we know pretty clearly what our identity is now and what a successful formula is for us, and what type of pace we need to play at, and what type of game we need to play, and we weren’t able to do that tonight.”
3. For a half, the Heat was just as good shooting from beyond the three-point line as they were anywhere else. Miami shot 11 of 23 from three in the first half, which equaled the 47.8 shooting percentage it finished with from everywhere else. But it couldn’t keep it up in the second as Miami made only two threes out of 14 attempts in the second half and only converted 1 of 8 in the final quarter.
Goran Dragic credited the Heat’s crisp passing in the first half, which led to plenty of open looks. That changed down the stretch as the Pistons picked up the tempo and defended better with their second unit.
"The first half we kind of exploded," Dragic said. "The ball was moving well and we had a lot of open threes. In the second half, the ball didn’t move. It was taking a little bit and that’s why we couldn’t get those open threes we had."
The Heat ranks 19th in three-point shooting (35.1) so far this season, but that has also improved during the road trip as it shot 37.7 percent over its past six games. The Heat shot 36.5 percent from three and finished 12th in the league in that category last season.
4. The Whiteside-Andre Drummond matchup got off to slow start and in the end didn’t play as big of a factor as anticipated. Whiteside had a quiet first half in which he made only one of the three shots and finished with two points. But he made his first five shots in the third quarter as he went on to recorded his fifth double-double of the season with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Drummond scored only eight points (five in the first half) and 17 rebounds (10 in the first half).
“He’s a really good rebounder, man, it’s not a secret,” Whiteside said of Drummond. “Just two great rebounders going at it. I think we had 10 rebounds we smacked from each other both. He was out there a little longer than me so of course he was going to grab a couple more rebounds out there.”
5. After some recent struggles, Josh Richardson had a bounce back game, which is a good sign going forward. Richardson scored 15 for only his second double-figure scoring game in his past eight.
“I just told myself I was going to come out and be aggressive,” Richardson said. “I’ve been passive a lot the last couple of games and not really attacking and playing like I know how to. I just told myself I was going to come out and make them guard me.”