The Miami Heat are in big trouble following a 99-98 loss to the Detroit Pistons, which for the time being kicks them out of the top 8 in the East and might result in missing the playoffs.
The Heat are now ninth in the East, 0.5 games behind the Boston Celtics. The Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers are all still in the mix, but the Heat have lost three in a row and are carrying the worst momentum in this group heading into the final 10 days of their season, which begins with a road game in Indiana followed by hosting the Hornets.
Despite the aches all over his body, Wade had a very strong start, scoring 16 of his 24 points in the first half, making 7-of-8 from the field. But in the second half he shot just 4-of-10, including missing badly on the final two possessions which ultimately lost the Heat the game and could prove to be very costly when it’s time to see who makes the playoffs in the East.
With 15 seconds on the clock, Wade too an incredibly difficult 3-pointer that hit nothing but the board, leading the Pistons on a quick transition attack after scrambling to win the ball, resulting in Reggie Jackson making what turned out to be the game winning layup, with the Pistons taking the lead, capping off a comeback from nine points down, scoring the last 10 points of the game.
The Heat were left with five seconds on the clock. What they managed to come up with is a 3-point attempt by Wade which bounced off the rim, resulting in a loss. The Pistons had nothing to play for but the sake of winning, but ruining a playoff berth for someone else does feel good for teams that aren’t trying to tank.
One problem for the Heat has been Hassan Whiteside. He might be a double double machine (13 points, 12 rebounds, 6 blocks) but the lineups with him have their problems on both ends of the floor. The Heat were losing by 27 points during his 31 minutes and have had issues for the last couple of months finding lineups that work. Injuries across the board haven’t been helpful.
Jackson is someone that is thriving. Reggie Jackson left the Oklahoma City Thunder with a lot of bitterness and not a lot of guys missing him. In Detroit he’s been able to feel welcome and also make the most of Brandon Jennings’ injury. He scored 29 points while dishing 11 assists in the win, averaging 17.6 points and 8.7 assists since joining the Pistons, helping him in his bid to get the biggest possible contract next season.
The Heat still hold their playoff fate in their own hands, holding the tiebreaker over the Celtics, but they need to match their record first. Something about the balance between Wade and Dragic has been broken over the last few game and without that working, the Heat are really going to struggle keeping their playoff streak (six in a row and counting) going.
Clearing the wreckage from Joe Dumars’ final years isn’t over yet, but Stan Van Gundy has a Pistons team that seems to be actually happy to be playing basketball, which wasn’t the case last season and until Josh Smith got waived. It’s a rough offseason with some big decisions waiting for him, but there are reasons to feel optimistic in Detroit.