Miami Heat (20-6) vs. Detroit Pistons (9-22) December 28th


You can understand why non-Heat fans don’t like the Heat, and in particular Dwyane Wade. People hate winners, especially when they’re not taking games seriously. See: against Wizards, others. Plus Wade popped Ramon Sessions in the crotch and tried to explain it away when the Heat played the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday and people are in an uproar.

It’s another example of his “dirty play” but hey, he’s hard-nosed and sometimes it comes out kind of harsh. I still love the guy. They won too, and that was pretty great. Looking at their upcoming schedule, I talked myself into a 14 game winning streak, the only real speed bump being the Bulls next Friday. But with this team, you never know. They’ll lose to anyone if they feel like it.

The current six-game winning streak is put on the line in Detroit Friday night against the Pistons. The Pistons have been known for defense and effort for a long time, starting with Isiah Thomas and the Bad Boys back in the 1980’s, continuing with the title-winning team in 2004 with Chauncey Billups, Ben and Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince, and even now they’re still a tough team that puts it on the line every night. Prince is the only one still hanging around and the only guy getting legitimate minutes that’s over 26.

Though they’re 9-22 the Pistons are a team on the rise – a young and rugged front line led by Greg Monroe is a great building block, the effort, energy and toughness of Prince is a great teaching tool for the young guys, and they have former Dukie Kyle Singler, who is at the same time hard-nosed and easily hateable. It’s an attribute the Pistons seem to flourish with, and Singler brings it with ease. The magic of Duke I guess.

What happened last time: Miami won on a lovely Sunday Afternoon last April, 98-75. Detroit went 25-41 last season and it showed in this game. James Jones shot 6-of-8 from three for Miami for 18 points, LeBron James led in scoring with 26 and had only one rebound, and the Pistons had Brandon Knight lead the team with 16. Detroit actually led after the first, 21-19, but a 14-point third quarter pretty much buried them. This was the point where the Heat were playing out the string, and the Pistons didn’t have Andre Drummond yet.

Who to watch for: The aforementioned Drummond is averaging seven points and seven rebounds in about 20 minutes a night, including 2.9 offensive boards a game. Question marks followed him out of college after a seemingly lackadaisical year at UConn, but he plainly plays with energy and toughness. Once he puts on 30 pounds of muscle and grown manness (he’s only 19) he’s going to be great.

Drummond has joined Greg Monroe in the frontcourt, which could lead to domination down the line. Monroe is one of the few back to the basket centers left in the game, and with 15 points and nine boards, all signs point to him being a fine player. Hopefully he doesn’t go to the Brook Lopez school of big men and forget how to rebound. His rebounding rate is down to 15.5%, after a career high of 18.3% last year. The season is still young, and he’s already got 12 games with at least 10 boards, including an 18 rebound game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Brandon Knight is one of the leading scorers on the team, and he’s already got a more well-rounded game than his backcourt mate Rodney Stuckey. His per-36 numbers of 15.8 points, 4.2 boards and 5.3 assists give some hope to his all-around game at only 21, and he’s shooting 42% from distance. We’ll see how it goes, but he shows a lot of promise, he’s a smooth player and seems almost effortless at times.

For Miami, expect to see Udonis Haslem start again, and a good helping of Joel Anthony because of Detroit’s size. Plus, LeBron at the power forward could happen, it’d be fun to see him confound Drummond and Monroe, and beat up Jason Maxiell. Other than that, it’s the Heat, you know what to watch for. Highlights, tons of three’s and winning.

Why the Heat will win: Talent all over the backcourt, like usual. They clamped down on the Pistons last April, and if they keep up what they were doing against Oklahoma City on Christmas they’re unbeatable. Rodney Stuckey can be silenced with ease due to his lack of jump shot, Knight vs. Wade is a wash, and Tayshaun Prince isn’t a huge offensive threat. At least, he shouldn’t be.

Why the Heat will lose: Monroe can dominate down low, and Andre Drummond looks like the type of guy who wants to prove he can do it against the best. Young guys especially play hard against Miami, if only to prove they can run with the big boys. Drummond is a legit seven-footer (it’s a term I still wonder about – how many illegitimate seven-footers are there?) and he’s got all the pieces to be great. This very well could be a coming out party for him. IF coach Lawrence Frank wants to play him. The Pistons rebound really well, and even if the Heat were doubled up on the boards by Minnesota and still won, this is an away game. The Palace at Auburn Hills is never easy.

Prediction: Heat 105, Pistons 90. LeBron is playing otherworldly, Wade is having a brilliant season, and the team played with energy and passion against a bad team in Charlotte. There’s no reason to believe it won’t carry over, though Detroit might depress them.

If you have nothing else to do on a holiday week Friday night, enjoy this one. The Pistons aren’t bad despite their record, so it’ll be interesting to see how they grow as the year goes on.