Even without Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat didn’t have too much trouble getting their own dose of payback against the Detroit Pistons, beating them 110-95 with another almost triple-double from LeBron James, who along with his teammates played the right way to overcome a key absentee and the usual problems in the paint and on the boards.
As we mentioned before – rebounding isn’t what determines how good the Heat will be. They will lose in the rebounding numbers almost every night. The key for them is to defend and attack in a way that they’re used to. When the outside shots drop early and force defenses to stretch and spread, it’s very difficult beating them, even with a huge advantage in the form of the Smith-Monroe-Drummond trio.
So Miami lost 34-43 in rebounds, but were 11-of-28 from beyond the arc, including a combined 7-of-11 for bench players Roger Mason and Rashard Lewis. LeBron James led the way with 24 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists, feeling quite comfortable against the bad defense the Pistons were putting together, making it very easy for the Heat to move the ball and later find space underneath the basket, even for little guys like Mario Chalmers. Ray Allen doing a very good job in the lineup, scoring 18 points on 6-of-10 from the field didn’t hurt as well.
One thing that’s interesting to see about the Heat this season is their complete sense of confidence in the plan to rest as Wade as much as possible. They are two games behind the Pacers right now, and we saw last year just how important home court advantage is in the playoffs. However, there’s no one else in the East even remotely close to posing a threat (the only other plus .500 team are the Hawks), and the Heat feel like their time for a big push and winning streak is going to come in 2014, just like last season, when it seemed like the Knicks or Pacers might run away with the conference.
The Pistons remain a limited team, that has very little on-court intelligence. Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith continue to make bad choices and decisions, while their ability to adjust and to respond to teams not frightened by their size advantage remains very limited. In a season such as this it’s still going to be enough to make the playoffs, but not look very good in the process of getting there.