Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 108-74 win over the Detroit Pistons (34-33) on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. It marked the Heat’s most lopsided win of the season.
1. That was a pretty perfect third quarter for the Heat (32-35).
Entering halftime with a five-point lead, Miami broke open the game by outscoring Detroit 33-8 in the third quarter. At the end of the period, the Heat led by 30.
Miami started the quarter on a 21-0 run, its longest unanswered run of the season. The Heat’s starting lineup was in the game for the entire 21-point spurt.
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“Our starting lineup has had some good starts and some play that’s been trending in the right direction,” coach Erik Spoelstra said, with Miami’s starting five outscoring Detroit by 23 points in 12 minutes of action together. “But that was as inspiring as they’ve been. The collective unit really just set the tone, flying around. You could feel the energy.
“That run probably really started when J-Rich put his nose on that loose ball and laid it all out there. That’s what we’ve been talking about, how important is it to you? Sometimes plays like that can jump out of the arena to inspire everybody to let you know how important it is.”
How bad was it for the Pistons?
Detroit didn’t score its first point of the quarter until there was 5:27 remaining and didn’t make its first field goal of the quarter until there was 2:52 remaining. The Pistons shot 2 of 16 from the field and 0 of 10 on threes in the third.
Meanwhile, the Heat shot 10 of 20 from the field, 4 of 6 on threes and 9 of 10 from the free-throw line in the third. Seven players scored for Miami in the period, led by seven from Bam Adebayo.
“I just think we came out with a lot more sense of urgency than they did,” Heat point guard Justise Winslow said. “This game, it felt like it meant a lot more to us than it did to them. That’s the mentality that we came in with and approached shootaround and walkthrough. We just came out for the third quarter with a lot of urgency, a lot of intensity.”
The stakes surrounding Wednesday’s game was on Josh Richardson’s mind all day.
“I knew it was a big game,” Richardson said. “So we came in for treatment this morning and I kind of said when I walked in and then when I was walking out, ‘Let’s get one tonight.’ I told [Winslow] in warm-ups, so I was definitely talking about it all day.”
Pistons coach Dwane Casey said: “The Heat were a step quicker. They beat us in every pass, rebounding, passing the ball, screening, whatever it was. ... It’s a lesson that we have to learn. If we want to make the playoffs, we have to play playoff basketball. It’s new to a lot of people with different roles and it’s a wake-up call.”
The Pistons’ eight points tied for the second-fewest a team has scored in a quarter this season. It also marked just the eighth time in Heat history that it’s won a quarter by 25 or more points.
And get this, there have now been four quarters this season that a team has held its opponent to eight points or fewer in. The Heat is responsible for three of them — the fourth quarter of a win over the Clippers on Dec. 8, the first quarter of a win over the Bucks on Dec. 22 and Wednesday’s win over the Pistons.
“Just a professional win by us tonight,” guard Dwyane Wade said. “We played against a team that wasn’t making shots early and you continue to keep going at them and continue to keep applying pressure.”
2. It was a good night for the Heat’s young core.
The trio of Adebayo (10 points, five rebounds and one assist), Richardson (13 points, eight rebounds and five assists) and Winslow (16 points, five rebounds and two assists) combined for 39 points on 15-of-24 (62.5 percent) shooting, 18 rebounds and eight assists against the Pistons.
The Heat is now 8-2 this season with Adebayo, Richardson and Winslow in the starting lineup.
3. After a record number of threes was made against the Heat, it finally faced an opponent that went cold from long range.
The Heat allowed 40 three-pointers on 48.2 percent shooting from deep over its previous two games, including a franchise record 21 threes in Sunday’s loss to the Raptors. But on Wednesday, the Pistons finished just 8 of 37 (21.6 percent) on threes.
Miami, which shot 11 of 28 from three-point range against Detroit, is 20-13 this season when finishing a game with more threes than its opponent.
In the Heat’s 23-point loss to the Pistons on Feb. 23, Detroit made seven more threes than Miami.
4. If there was a game James Johnson was going to end his run of “DNP-CDs,” Wednesday’s matchup against the Pistons made sense.
The Heat doesn’t have many players who can defend Pistons All-Star forward Blake Griffin’s mixture of strength and athleticism. But Johnson is one of them. Throw in the fact that Adebayo, who started the game defending Griffin, was forced to the bench after picking up his second foul midway through the first quarter, and a Johnson appearance looked to be a real possibility.
But Johnson, who is in the second season of a four-year, $60 million contract, spent the entire game on the bench once again. He’s been an active scratch in six consecutive games and has not played since the Heat’s loss to the 76ers in Philadelphia on Feb. 21, with a shoulder injury keeping him out for four games before coming back and receiving these DNP-CDs.
“He’s staying ready and fully able when his number is called to contribute, because his mind is in it, he knows what this is all about,” Spoelstra said of Johnson. “This is just about the team and everybody’s had their times of this. So he is not forgotten. He’ll still have an opportunity to contribute to this playoff push.”
Without Johnson, the Heat leaned on Adebayo and Derrick Jones Jr. to defend Griffin, who finished with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting and three turnovers in 30 minutes.
5. It was a productive night for the Heat and its playoff push. The Heat strengthened its hold on the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
Miami’s win over Detroit paired with Orlando’s loss to the Wizards on Wednesday moved the Heat two games ahead of the No. 9 Magic and No. 10 Hornets. Miami is also now two games behind No. 7 Detroit and 2.5 games behind No. 6 Brooklyn in the East standings.
With just 15 regular-season games remaining, the Heat is in a good spot right now. But with nine of its final 13 games coming on the road, there’s still a long way to go before Miami can feel comfortable with its spot in the standings.