Injury-depleted Pistons fall to Heat

January 4, 2018

Miami, Fla. — The Pistons were getting healthy — that it, until they weren’t.

Andre Drummond was a game-time decision

because of bruised right ribs. He didn’t play, missing a game for the first time this season.

The Pistons found a way to work around it — with big contributions from some of their role players — and made up the difference.

It wasn’t enough, though, as the Miami Heat sizzled from beyond the 3-point line and took a 111-104 victory over the Pistons on Wednesday night at American Airlines Arena.

BOX SCORE: Heat 111, Pistons 104

Tobias Harris had 19 points, Reggie Bullock 17 and Avery Bradley 15, but they also got big production from Luke Kennard (13 points) and Boban Marjanovic, who had a season-high 15 points and added nine rebounds and a career-best three assists.

The Pistons (20-16) didn’t have an answer for the Heat’s hot shooting, as they went 17-of-34 from beyond the arc, including 11-of-20 in the first half. They got within 98-96 with 5:41 left in the game, but James Johnson (16 points) hit their 17th 3-pointer of the game to push the lead to five.

The Heat (20-17) looked to have the game under control, after back-to-back baskets by Kelly Olynyk (25 points) for a 105-98 lead at the 2:40 mark, but Anthony Tolliver hit a 3-pointer and Bradley added another on the next possession, trimming the deficit to 107-104.

The Pistons didn’t score again, as Olynyk converted a reverse lay-in and Josh Richardson (22 points) added a pair of free throws with 23.2 seconds left.

Adding to the reserve effort was two-way player Dwight Buycks, who had 14 points — one off his career high. He went 7-of-12 from the field in 17 minutes and added four assists. He had a good effort in the role as backup point guard, while Langston Galloway didn’t play.

The Pistons led, 67-64, midway through the third quarter, after Bullock hit three 3-pointers in less than two minutes. The Heat responded with a 12-0 run, including a dunk and fadeaway from Olynyk and 3-pointers from Goran Dragic (24 points) and Wayne Ellington (12 points), to take their biggest lead, 76-67.

The Pistons answered with a three-point play from Harris, sparking a 14-5 spurt to finish the period, for an 81-81 tie entering the fourth.

Here are some other observations from the Heat matchup:

■ With Drummond out, Marjanovic got going early, with nine points and five rebounds in the first five minutes of the game. He was active in looking for his shot, getting deep in the paint and taking quick, deliberate shots. It was his first start since joining the Pistons; he had four starts when he was with the Spurs.

■ In his first game back after groin issues, Bradley had a tough first half in getting back into the groove. He shot 4-of-10 from the field but made 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. The Pistons only had three 3-pointers in the first half, while the Heat were sizzling, going 11-of-20 on 3-pointers.

■ With the shortened depth at center, the Pistons looked to Anthony Tolliver to play center for the final 1:28 of the first half and down the stretch in the fourth quarter. With Drummond out and Eric Moreland ineffective for stretches, it was an adjustment to help counter the Heat’s size and versatility in the post.

■ Buycks got the minutes at backup point guard behind Ish Smith — and he delivered, with 10 points through three quarters, hitting 5-of-9 from the field, and added two rebounds and four assists. Van Gundy looked to give him some solid playing time, given Reggie Jackson’s injury and the possibility that he’d have to play significant minutes during Jackson’s timeout.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard