The Detroit Pistons still sit on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Detroit is 18-30 SU this season and trail the Charlotte Hornets by three games for the final playoff spot in the East. The Miami Heat, meanwhile, is holding it together and sits five games below .500 but in the No. 7 spot of the East’s standings.
Hosting the Heat who are 13-11 on the road, the Pistons find itself 4-point favorites according to NBA oddsmakers at Bovada.
The game will aired on NBA TV at 7:30 PM E.T.
The Pistons are not a good team at home this season, having won just one-third of their matchups at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Pistons have won four of its past 10 games and defeated Josh Smith’s new team at home 114-101. In that victory over the Houston Rockets, D.J. Augustine showed he is not just a product of a Tom Thibodeau offense (last year), scoring 28 points and dishing out 12 assists. Andre Drummond wreaked his usual havoc on the boards, hauling in 16 rebounds in the contest.
The biggest story in Detroit has been the loss of Brandon Jennings to a season-ending ACL tear. Jennings had become only the fifth player in NBA history to both score 50 points in a game and dish out 25 assists or more, and prior to injury led the Pistons in scoring. His absence means that Augustin is going to be responsible for running the show, and thus far he has done well.
Greg Monroe is playing well which bodes strongly for his free agency prospecting this summer. Monroe is the second highest scorer behind Jennings with 15.3 points while also hauling in 10.3 boards per game. Drummond is grabbing nearly 13 rebs. A game while accruing 2.83 blocks/steals per game. Despite operating mostly close to the basket, Drummond shoots just 49.1 percent from the floor. It’s not a bad mark per se, but given his skill set and power, he should be putting up Andrew Bynum type of percentages. He stands alone now as the biggest and strongest 5-man in the Association, perhaps alongside Jordan with Dwight Howard in heavy decline.
Miami meanwhile has uncovered the gem of the season in Hassan Whiteside.
Whiteside was drafted in the second round by the Sacramento Kings but found his way to China and other global venues, played in the D-League, and now is an ABSOLUTE MONSTER for the Heat. Whiteside has started six of his 21 appearances and dispelled any doubts he is a true NBA talent. His past four games include a block-infested 14 points, 13 rebound and 12 block triple-double against the Chicago Bulls and a 16 point, 24 rebound effort in the bad loss to the Dallas Mavs on Jan 30.
Whiteside may be enough to solve the Heat’s persistent rebounding problems that dated right through the two championships and the LeBron James era.
That era has come definitively to its end, but Dwyane Wade (out) and Chris Bosh are still top-20 talents in the league, and may be even higher when clicking and at full health. It’s just that the same lack of depth plagues the Heat, and even with a crew that includes a standout NCAA point guard (Shabazz Napier), an effective has-been (Danny Granger) and a rangy crazy Birdman (Chris Andersen), the Heat’s second unit lacks.
Luol Deng has shown all the signs of decline, but still is a strong No. 3 option for a contending team (which the Heat realistically are not). Deng has missed the last three contests as a result of a calf injury but is expected to suit up for this one.
The Heat are underdogs in this game, but may have a chance to upset the Pistons. Augustin could be easily stopped by both Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers, which would put extraordinary pressure on Kentavious Caldwell Pope and Jodie Meeks, shouldering either or both of them with a lot of ball handling duties.