MIAMI — The Heat just aren’t winning, they’re finding different ways to get wins now.
Miami used its defense to build its six-game winning streak, but it was offense that led the Heat (18-30) to their seventh consecutive win. The Heat shot 53.2 percent to defeat the Pistons 116-103 on Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena to keep the winning streak alive in a game that included 21 lead changes.
The Pistons led 91-90 after three quarters, but Miami turned up its defense in the fourth to hold the Pistons to 30 percent shooting in the period.
“Probably an entertaining game for the fans, but tough for the two head coaches,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Both teams shoot over 50 percent, a lot of high scoring, going back and forth and big plays. Neither team could figure out how to put together extended defensive stops. Our toughest, most physical, most committed minutes were there at the end and that was good to see.”
The starting backcourt of Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters led the way again, as they combined for 40 points on 15-of-32 shooting. Dragic finished with 23 points and Waiters finished with 17 points.
When it was done, Miami had five players finish with double-digit points. That included 46 points from the bench with James Johnson finishing with a stat line of 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists and Wayne Ellington scoring 19 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.
Reggie Jackson led the Pistons (21-26) with a team-high 24 points.
Here are our five takeaways from the game …
1. Heat are the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA: Well, not for the entire season. But entering Saturday, Miami was ranked as the top 3-point shooting team in the NBA over the past six games — making threes at a 41 percent rate during that stretch. That trend continued against Detroit, as the Heat made 14-of-28 threes in the win. The Heat have now made 42.4 percent of their 3-point shots over the seven-game winning streak. That’s a huge improvement from Miami’s first 41 games of the season — before the winning streak. The Heat ranked 26th in the NBA before the streak, making 33.8 percent of their 3-point attempts.
“Guys are in a rhythm,” Spoelstra said. “We felt that out offense was trending better for a while. It just wasn’t showing up in the results.”
2. What’s up with Dion Waiters?: Waiters feels comfortable in Miami. The 25-year-old guard has said that multiple times this season and now his play is backing it up. Waiters continues his string of strong performances with 17 points, three rebounds and seven assists Saturday. He’s now averaging 22.1 points on 50 percent shooting over the seven-game winning streak. But the biggest improvement in Waiters’ game during this stretch might be his ability to finish around the basket. Before the string of wins, Waiters was making just 36.4 percent of his shots on drives. But over the first six games of Miami’s seven-game streak, Waiters made 61.8 percent of his shots on drives to the basket.
3. Hassan Whiteside finds rhythm late: The Heat’s $98 million center played Saturday after missing Friday’s win over the Bulls with a sprained right ankle. But Whiteside didn’t look like himself for most of the game, as he struggled against Pistons center Andre Drummond. Whiteside recorded four points on 2-of-6 shooting and six rebounds over the first three quarters. But the 27-year-old came alive in the fourth quarter to score five points and grab six rebounds in the final period. Whiteside finished with nine points and 12 rebounds. Meanwhile, Drummond recorded 17 points and 20 rebounds.
“He just found a way to make an impact,” Spoelstra said of Whiteside. “That’s the lesson. Good competition will sometimes get you. You just have to find a way to put your fingerprints on the game. He was able to do that.”
4. No defense: Both defenses struggled. Just look at the final score, as Detroit and Miami combined to score 219 points. The Pistons shot 51.7 percent and the Heat shot 53.2 percent. This was the Heat’s first bad defensive game in a while, as Miami held opponents to 43.2 percent shooting over the six games leading up to Saturday’s win over Detroit. But the Heat’s offense was so good that it didn’t matter.
5. Schedule advantage: The Heat might have had the home-court advantage, but the Pistons had the schedule advantage. Detroit entered the contest well-rested with their last game coming on Monday. Meanwhile, Saturday marked the second night of a back-to-back set for Miami. In fact, it marked the Heat’s third game in four nights. It didn’t matter, though, as the Heat looked like the fresher team in the fourth quarter. Miami outscored Detroit 26-12 in the final period.