‘They spanked us’: Pistons go ice-cold in third, get demolished by Heat
Miami — Twelve minutes. Eight points. Eight fouls.
That’s not playoff basketball — it’s almost not basketball.
The Pistons played well in the first half but had their worst third quarter of the season and collapsed in another showdown game for the playoff push.
The Miami Heat capitalized on the drought, turning a five-point halftime lead into a third-quarter blowout, dismissing the Pistons, 108-74, on Wednesday night at American Airlines Arena.
The Pistons were outscored 33-8 in the third.
It’s the second straight embarrassing loss for the Pistons (34-33), who fell to the Nets by 28 on Monday, completing a dreadful road trip that looked to be a litmus test of their playoff push.
“That’s two games in a row where we didn’t come out in a playoff mode. (We lost to) two teams playing in a playoff mode. It’s nothing schematically; it’s our approach,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s on me to get them to play at a level. At this time of year, when you’re fighting for playoff position, you have to scrap and play hard.
“Throw all the X’s and O’s out the window. There’s nothing they did that we haven’t seen; they just spanked us. Until we understand the level you have to play at when you’re the hunted, it’s going to be a different level.”
Beyond the loss, the bigger concern is Reggie Jackson’s ankle. Jackson stepped on Zaza Pachulia’s foot and twisted his right ankle, and he writhed on the court for a minute before getting up and trying to hobble to the bench. He fell and had to be helped to the locker room by the training staff.
Jackson’s status for Friday’s game against the Lakers is unclear, though Jackson believes the injury is not serious.
With the loss, the Pistons stayed in seventh place but the Heat (32-35) moved within two games. The Nets also lost, so the Pistons didn’t lose any ground and remained a half-game behind Brooklyn.
Blake Griffin finished with 13 points and four rebounds, Wayne Ellington had 11 points and Luke Kennard 10 for the Pistons. Andre Drummond ended his franchise-record-tying streak of 19 straight double-doubles after getting in early foul trouble and fouling out with just five points and nine rebounds.
The two lopsided losses are concerning and the players aren’t losing sight of the momentum they created in their 10-3 stretch prior to the lull.
“It’s a wake-up call,” Drummond said. “Those are two great teams, playoff-push teams that are looking to get a spot. We have to come out with a more prepared mental mind state and be ready to go. We can’t ease into games. It’s crunch time right now and we only have a handful of games left.
“We don’t have room for error. We have to wake up and we have a game Friday against the Lakers.”
The Pistons fell behind 8-0 in the first two minutes and never got into gear. The Heat pushed the lead to 30-18 after a jumper by Dwyane Wade (11 points) to end the first period. The Pistons had a 14-5 run near the end of the second, with eight points from Ellington, and were within 48-44.
The Pistons got a 3-pointer from Griffin to pull within 54-49 at halftime but the Heat ran off the first 21 points of the third, including a couple of technical fouls on Casey and Jackson, as the game was slipping away.
Bam Adebayo (10 points) had seven points during the run and Kelly Olynyk (nine points) added five. A 3-pointer by Justise Winslow (16 points) pushed the lead to 75-49 and the rout was on.
Griffin ended the scoreless streak with a pair of free throws and the Pistons didn’t score their first field goal until Thon Maker’s floater at the 2:53 mark. By then, the lead had ballooned to 79-55.
1. Like the Nets, the Heat played a lot of zone defense and the Pistons didn’t execute on offense against it. Casey insisted that the zone isn’t confusing the Pistons but the amount of zone they’re seeing isn’t typical.
“I don’t think we’ve seen teams run it so often, playing it the whole game. It’s not an excuse for how we played; we didn’t play with any force or energy,” Drummond said. “We have to find it and get back on track and start winning games again.”
2. The Pistons’ defense was sluggish again early, allowing the Heat to get out to an 8-0 lead early and stretch the lead to 30-18 after the first period. Miami shot a season-best 67 percent from the field in the first half.
3. Drummond picked up two fouls in the first quarter and had to sit. It seemed to take the Pistons out of a rhythm but it worked well because with Heat center Hassan Whiteside coming off the bench, it was a more favorable matchup. He got two more quick fouls in the first two minutes of the third quarter and sat for the remainder of the period.
4. Griffin only took nine shot attempts (making four) but looked to be short on many of his looks. He said the fatigue was some physical and some mental, but Casey has insisted he doesn’t have any plans to rest Griffin — who has missed just two games this season because of rest — down the stretch of the final 15 games.
5. Ellington, in his second game against his former team, looked good again, going 3-of-7 — all 3-pointers — and finishing with 11 points. While the starting group struggled for the most part, Ellington found a good shooting rhythm, including eight points in a second-quarter spurt that helped narrow the gap to 48-44 with 2:37 left.