Five takeaways: Heat can’t close road trip, blow 11-point second half lead in loss at Pistons

Heat forward Josh Richardson grabs a rebound against Pistons guard Luke Kennard during the Pistons’ victory Sunday in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

DETROIT – The end of the road.

OK, it’s not that bleak but Sunday’s 112-103 loss to the Pistons concluded the Miami Heat’s season-long, six-game road trip. And while Miami had a chance to head home with a solid win, it could not hold an 11-point, third-quarter lead and fell to old friend Stan Van Gundy’s team.

Hassan Whiteside helped the Heat build their lead but the Pistons regrouped, took a two-point lead by the end of the quarter and a 10-0 run early in the fourth quarter sealed the win.

“Probably a pace that was a little more appealing to them, than to us,” coach Erik Spoelstra said about what sparked the Pistons’ run. “We know what our identity is and as much as it looked like we could play that kind of game in the first half, a 48-minute game really has to be on our terms. The pace. … It was just a little bit too up and down, and they were able to really capitalize in some numbers situations.”

Whiteside led the Heat with 20 points, 18 in the second half. He also pulled down 12 rebounds. Goran Dragic added 18.

Tobias Harris had 25 for the Pistons while Avery Bradley chipped in with 24.

The Heat (6-7) finish their 11-day road trip 3-3. The red-hot Pistons (10-3) conclude a five-game home stand in which they went 5-0.

Here are our five takeaways:

Blown opportunity: The Heat had a great chance to make this a highly successful trip. Miami led 73-62 with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter and had the Pistons on the ropes. But Miami suddenly went cold and the Pistons ended the quarter outscoring the Heat 21-8 to take an 83-81 lead. Detroit then put the game away stretching a 93-92 lead with 7:55 remaining to 103-92 in a span of 2:45.  Miami never got closer than seven the rest of the game.

“They changed a lot,” Goran Dragic said about the fourth quarter. “The second unit came in and elevated the tempo. They really played up-tempo with Ish Smith and it kind of hurt us a little bit. They got some open transition threes that we didn’t contest and they made those shots and made that little run. In the end, it wasn’t enough for us.”

But. … 3-3 not all that bad: The Heat went .500, which makes it a successful trip, especially considering three of those teams entered Sunday a combined 16 games over .500. The schedule now is a bit more home friendly as Miami returns to AmericanAirlines Arena for three of its next four games before heading out for another long trip, four games, that starts the day after Thanksgiving. Two of those home games, Washington and Boston, will offer a challenge and gives Miami a chance to prove it belongs in the conversation with the East’s top teams. Miami and Washington play a home and home this week in Miami on Wednesday and D.C. two nights later.

“I feel like I’m getting off punishment,” Whiteside said. “I think we got better on this road trip. It feels like we’ve been on the road for two months now. It’s going to be good to sleep in your own bed and get to see your house and get back in front of Heat fans.”

Live by the three, die by the three: The Heat relied on the 3-point shot early. Miami’s first eight shots all were from beyond the circle and by halftime it was 11-of-23. For the most part, the shots were open as Detroit appeared more concerned with taking away the paint, which left shooters open on the perimeter. But that touch eluded the Heat in the second half, going just 2-of-14 as Miami finished 13-of-37 for the game, equaling its season-high for attempts (three times). The Heat high for makes this season is 15.

“In the first half, they were much more to our liking inside-out, extra ball movement good to great,” Spoelstra said. “The second half they really stepped up and flattened us out, made those threes tougher at the end of the clock, without any kind of dribble penetration, paint penetration, attack penetration.  So we were caught with some tough ones and we’ll just have to get better with the details, get better with the execution, better at the screening, better poised.  We showed a lot of it on this road trip.  We’ve gotten better at it, and we’ll have to continue to get better.”

Battle of the big men: Whiteside and Detroit’s Andre Drummond started slow. They combined for just seven points in the first half, although Drummond, the league’s leading rebounder, did have 10 boards, twice as many as Whiteside. But Whiteside came alive in the third quarter, scoring 10 straight Heat points to help them take an 11-point lead. Whiteside picked up his fifth double-double on the season in eight games while Drummond finished with eight points and 17 rebounds.

“He’s a really good rebounder, man, it’s not a secret,” Whiteside said. “Just two great rebounders going at it. I think we had 10 rebounds we smacked from each other both. He was out there a little longer than me (36 minutes compared to Whiteside’s 29) so of course he was going to grab a couple more rebounds out there.”

Some life from Richardson: Josh Richardson has started every game this season, joining Dragic is the only two players to do so, but his play has been uneven. Richardson entered Sunday shooting .333 while averaging 3.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.9 turnovers in his last seven games. But he had his best outing in several weeks and the Heat hopes that continues. Richardson finished with 15 points, his most since Nov. 28, five rebounds, four assists and no turnovers. He shot 5-of-11.

“I just told myself I was going to come out and be aggressive,” Richardson said. “I’ve been passive a lot the last couple of games and not really attacking and playing like I know how to. I just told myself I was going to come out and make them guard me.”

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[The Closer: Dion Waiters’ fourth-quarter numbers are eye-opening]

[Hassan Whiteside, Heat defense coming alive on road trip]

[Time for Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade to stop whining, take responsibility for Heat’s failure in 2014]

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