Pistons start short road trip in Miami

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (7-10) at Miami Heat (14-3)
  • Date: December 3, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

The Detroit Pistons will start a fairly small but difficult three-game road trip tonight that has them making stops in three separate states. They will take on the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls in their respective venues.

The matchup against the Bucks probably does not inspire much fear, but Miami and Chicago have been Eastern Conference powerhouses since 2010-11 and as a result, Mo Cheeks’ players will have to bring their best effort.

It all starts tonight in a contest against the defending champions. Miami is flying under the radar this season because of the Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers, but they are one of the most balanced teams in the entire league.

They are the proud owners of a top-10 offense and defense, a feat that is reserved for only a handful of teams (the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs are the other units accomplishing this).

Offensively, they are one of the most fun teams to watch in the league. It’s easy to stop at LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but it’s also a mistake. The Heat have superstars to carry them through games but it’s not always a necessity.

Miami is quite comfortable with sharing the ball and playing as a unit until the contributions of the superstars are truly needed. They own the best offensive efficiency in the league because they give up good shots to obtain great ones.

They own the best field goal percentage in the NBA and are amongst the top-five passing teams in the Association. The Heat hunt down 3-point shots and seemingly always create an open look from long range thanks to a combination of execution and misdirection.

Indeed, they will use the same play over and over again and add a few wrinkles every now and then to continuously keep defenses off balance. For instance, they will have Ray Allen set a screen and then receive a back screen of his own to run free for an open jumper.

After using that, they might remove the back screen from the play and just have him drift out towards the perimeter with his man hugging me, which creates a perfect driving lane for the ball-handler.

Miami just always keeps the floor spread out manages to create open looks. Even when the offense takes them all the way to their fifth option on a given play, it’s usually a decent mid-range jumper.

When all the avenues have been exhausted on particular set, Erik Spoelstra simply puts the ball in the hands of LeBron and asks him to bail the team out. James is shooting 59.8 percent from the field this year and in addition, he is making 48.1 percent of his treys.

These factors make Miami a juggernaut with the ball in their hands. Keep in mind, they are just as scary on the other end of the floor.

The Heat play at two different gears defensively and it’s quite misleading. They have a relaxed and controlled level of defense where they wall off the paint and contest shots. That’s good enough to beat most teams in the NBA. That’s their cruise control gear.

When they are playing at their peak, they trap, switch and jump into passing lanes. They force turnovers and stymie opponents trying to get into their sets. Also, Miami has some big wings that can cover point guards and make their lives quite difficult.

Thus, there is a chance that Brandon Jennings will see either Wade or James at some point depending on lineups tonight. The Pistons have a tough battle ahead of them tonight, but they have some of the necessary weapons needed to counter their hosts.

Detroit lacks shooters, however they can make up for that weakness with solid passing. The Heat defenders like to get a jump on their rotations, which makes them prone to ball fakes.

The tandem of Josh Smith and Greg Monroe can definitely help on this front as pressure release points. It will be interesting to see if they can outsmart a team that perfectly blends athleticism, execution and team play on both sides of the ball.

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