The way the Miami Heat’s starting unit had been playing of late, point guard Goran Dragic said after Friday night’s loss in Philadelphia that something needed to change.
Something did. The lineup that coach Erik Spoelstra trotted out was new — but it didn’t stop the Heat from dropping its third game in a row.
Led by Ish Smith’s 25 points and Andre Drummond’s 23 points, 20 rebounds and four blocks, the Pistons hung on to beat the Heat 111-107 at Little Caesars Arena, improving to 3-0 since acquiring five-time All-Star Blake Griffin from the Clippers earlier in the week. Griffin had 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for Detroit (25-26).
Dragic poured in 24 of a season-high 33 points in the second half, but it wasn’t enough for the Heat (29-24), which has now lost seven of its past 11 games following a seven-game win streak.
Miami fell from fifth to seventh in the Eastern Conference with Indiana’s win over Philadelphia. The Pacers (30-24) are a half game up on the Heat. The Bucks (28-23) moved past the Heat because they have a better win percentage (.549) than Miami (.547).
Detroit outscored the Heat 35-30 in the fourth quarter, tied for the most points allowed by the Heat in the final period this season.
“We’ve had some of these where we’ve won and done it our way,” Spoeslstra said. “We’ve had others done their way. It’s a painful lesson. We’ve got to keep on grinding. We know what our road map is.”
With Hassan Whiteside out with a stomach ailment, Spoelstra started his 16th different starting lineup of the season — Dragic, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow (first start since Dec. 3), Kelly Olynyk (first start since Jan. 10) and rookie Bam Adebayo (first start since Dec. 23). The group had not played a single minute together this season before Saturday night, and it showed as the Pistons jumped out to a 21-11.
The Heat went on a 13-0 run between the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter to take a 34-27 lead in the first half. But the Pistons rallied and went into the break ahead 54-50 thanks to a 28-17 rebounding advantage and 16 early points from point guard Ish Smith.
Dragic then took over in the third quarter. He scored 15 points (6 of 9 shooting) in the quarter as the Heat took a 77-76 lead into the final quarter. But Detroit opened the fourth quarter by scoring the first eight points of the final period, and the game went back and forth down the stretch.
Miami returns home to play its next three games at home beginning with Orlando on Monday.