Drummond's absence felt in Pistons' loss to Heat
Miami — The Pistons got one player back, but lost another to injury.
Avery Bradley returned after a seven-game absence and Andre Drummond was out because of bruised right ribs, missing a game for the first time this season.
The Pistons couldn’t find a way to fill the void in the middle and the Miami Heat took advantage, dominating on pick-and-roll plays, kicking to open 3-point shooters.
Wash, rinse and repeat.
The Heat sizzled from long range, hitting 17-of-34 on 3-pointers and held on in the final minutes, taking a 111-104 victory over the Pistons on Wednesday night at American Airlines Arena.
“They were in the paint all night. The ball was coming inside-out all game,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “They just broke us on the dribble on pick-and-rolls and drives and we could not keep the ball out of the paint and that was the story of the game.”
With Drummond out, Boban Marjanovic got his first start in his two seasons with the Pistons and had a season-high 15 points and added nine rebounds and a career-best three assists. Marjanovic and backup Eric Moreland had trouble preventing the dribble penetration, opening the gates for the Heat (20-17) to hit from the outside.
Offensively, the Pistons (20-16) got 19 points from Tobias Harris; Reggie Bullock added 17 points and Bradley 15 points, in his first game in three weeks. Luke Kennard chipped in 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
The Pistons trailed, 98-96, with 5:41 left, but James Johnson (16 points) hit their final 3-pointer to boost the lead to five. The Heat 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.
“They did a great job on getting into the paint and making plays for one another,” Bradley said. “Whenever we’re playing that way, we’re at our best and we didn’t do a great job containing those guys.”
Although the Pistons were shorthanded, their reserves came through with some big production. Dwight Buycks, on a two-way contract from the Grand Rapids Drive, had 14 points — one off his career high. He went 7-of-12 from the field and added four assists in 17 minutes.
He played all the minutes at backup point guard, getting a feel with Reggie Jackson (sprained ankle) is out for the next few weeks.
“(Buycks) played well; I was pretty happy with him,” Van Gundy said. “A couple of things execution-wise we have to clean up but in terms of his attacking, he was very good.”
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. His previous season high was four points, in the win over the Spurs.