The Miami Heat are not making this easier on themselves.
Ish Smith scored 22 points off the bench for the Detroit Pistons, moving them into seventh place in the Eastern Conference by overpowering the Miami Heat 119-96.
At one point in the game, the Heat was down by as many as 26 points in the 4th quarter, and the Piston’s bench outscored the Heat’s 66-35.
“It’s tough to explain,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It is one game, and we’re just going to keep plugging away, as painful as it is.”
The Heat was up in the first quarter, after making 13 of their first 23 shots. Detroit outscored Miami 34 -17 in the second quarter.
The Pistons took advantage of a Heat team battling injuries. Miami was without Justise Winslow because of a sore left knee, and James Johnson also missed the game managing a sprained left shoulder. The beat went on as the Heat lost starting forward Rodney McGruder in the first half with a bruised right knee and said his status would be evaluated further on Sunday.
The good news, enter the Dragon. Point guard Goran Dragic returned his talents on the floor for the first time since Dec. 10, after a two-month rehab to recover from right knee surgery.
Blake Griffin scored 20 points while Langston Galloway and Luke Kennard each scored 17 for the Pistons (28-30), who are 1 1/2 games behind Brooklyn for the No. 6 spot.
Griffin was able to get his hands on the game jersey worn by Udonis Haslem who did not play after the game. Haslem a Miami native who went undrafted and a three-time NBA Champion will retire at the end of the season.
“Over the years, there are certain guys I watched. I watched many UD defensive clips when I was in L.A.,” Griffin stated. “A lot of these power forwards I played against, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett some of these guys, I watched a lot of films and took pieces of their games. I have asked for their jerseys, and someday I will have the power forward hall of fame right in my house somewhere.”
Haslem became the first undrafted player in NBA history to lead a franchise in rebounds.
Josh Richardson scored 22 for Miami, Dion Waiters scored 17, Dwyane Wade added 15 and Hassan Whiteside had 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Heat (26-32), who fell to 10th in the East.
The beat goes on, as the Pistons host Indiana on Monday. The Heat host Phoenix on Monday.