Can Miami Heat Youth Movement Mean Victory in Detroit?


Tonight’s game between the Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons will highlight several young players that have made a significant difference for both teams this season. Check out the start time, TV info, preview and more.

Start Time: 7:30 p.m. EST
Location: Game will be played near Detroit at The Palace at Auburn Hills
TV Info: Fox Sports/NBA League Pass
Radio: 104.3 The Ticket

Injury and circumstance have forced Miami’s hand this season, having to rely on inexperienced players to help maintain a spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

And it seems to be working.

The Heat have struck gold with Hassan Whiteside who, as some writers and fans have observed, is now a vital part of Miami’s key to success. The novelty of what he’s been able to add to the team has worn off somewhat. It’s no longer a matter of hoping he can score but rather needing him to.

With Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng nursing injuries, the Heat got a much needed boost from Tyler Johsnon and James Ennis off the bench, unproven rookies that are hungry to help the team. They have glaring weaknesses in their game but what they’re not missing is energy, as Chris Bosh told the Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman:

"“They’re stepping up to the plate. The thing I like most about it is that they’re competing. They’re making sure they’re trying their best. It’s a lot of mistakes that come with it because they’re young, they’re rookies, but they’re going well.”"

Johnson was a major factor in Sunday’s win over the Celtics, with a stuffed stat line of 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists, to go along with 2 steals and 2 blocks. Ennis, while not as productive with just 8 points and 3 rebounds, seems to be earning more playing time from coach Erik Spoelstra, who likes what they bring to the table:

"“We’re trying to get everybody on the same page. So we’re not trapping more with those guys. But we would like to be able turn these defensive stops — we’re defending much more consistently in the last two weeks — into open-court opportunities, and those guys, that fits their game. It’s a very hungry, receptive group. And you need that from young players.”"

That’s certainly the case on Tuesday, when they face a depleted Pistons team that had been playing exceptionally-well of late, a case of addition-from-subtraction resulting from the waiving of Josh Smith. Following Smith’s release from a bloated contract, Detroit won 11 of their next 13 games. But point guard Brandon Jennings was lost for the year to a ruptured Achilles tendon. The Pistons would predictably struggle and just snapped a four-game losing streak with a win against Houston on Saturday.

Detroit relied on production from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and D.J. Augustin to beat the Rockets, each scoring 28 points.

As for the Heat, it’s hard to predict exactly how they’ll play versus the Pistons. Whiteside and Bosh form an impressive frontcourt combination and Deng, who participated in practice on Monday, should be back in the lineup. C.B. has shot poorly of late, notching just 30 points on 11-of-37 attempts. Still, he’s shot at 56.9 percent in his last 10 trips to Auburn Hills.

Miami’s guards have some added stress in facing Detroit. Mario Chalmers has had a long-standing rivalry with Augustin that dates back to when they competed for a NCAA championship. Johnson and fellow rookie Shabazz Napier are proving they can be consistent in all aspects of the game. And Norris Cole might be auditioning for his future team

Cole has been linked to the Pistons via trade and could be moved there – or anywhere – within days. His contract issue has been a lingering concern for the team and his production throughout the season hasn’t helped. It’s one of those unfortunate circumstances that have led to Miami’s unexpected reliance on Napier, Johnson and Ennis.

And it just might be the key to keeping Miami’s postseason hopes alive.

Check back with All U Can Heat for a full recap, along with post-game player grades, analysis and much more.

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