Pistons vs Heat final score: Detroit plays hard, falters late in loss to Miami

Detroit Bad Boys

The last time the Detroit Pistons made their way to South Florida, the world was different.

We were all happier, more optimistic.

The season was young — it was opening night, after all — and the Pistons battled the Miami Heat to the bitter end, losing a tight game that felt like it signaled the beginning of a season that showed progress in this restoration, rebuild thing.

You know how things have gone since.

However, the Pistons looked more like the team from opening night than the one who owns the second-worst record in the NBA. They went toe-to-toe with Miami, thanks to a balanced scoring effort led by 22 points from Simone Fontecchio off the bench.

But, of course, it’s the Pistons. When they play a close game, we know how it ends.

They make mistakes on defense, the offense stalls, they turn it over and they lose.

Wouldn’t you know it, that happened tonight! Jimmy Butler scored 15 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to put the Pistons in their place as Miami won 118-110.

The Pistons were right there late. It was a turnover from Jaden Ivey, who had a shaky night that we’ll get into later, who was gathering to make his move to the rim before losing the ball with just over two minutes to go and down three points.

It was like a receiver in football dropping a pass because he was looking up field.

The play swung the game as Duncan Robinson followed with a 3-pointer to make it a two-possession game. Fontecchio nailed his fifth triple of the night on the next possession to cut it back to a three-point game, but five-straight points from Butler ended things.

Ivey finished with 16 points, all of it on a variety of shots at the rim or floaters in the paint. He applied ample pressure on the rim, which was good, but the shooting slump he’s mired in has reached, and maybe I’m being dramatic, damaging levels.

He missed all five of his 3-point attempts tonight and has missed 42 of his last 51 shots from downtown, which means he’s shooting 17% from 3 on five attempts per game over the last nine games. Even Josh Smith thinks that’s bad.

Ivey was shooting 38% from deep before this slump and it begs the question: was his shooting to start the year real or is this an honest regression to the mean?

His slashing and speed are only as good as the spacing he can provide and the pressure he can put on the opposing defense. If teams don’t need to guard him closely outside, it really take his all-world speed out of the game in the halfcourt.

On the other side, Tek shot the air out of the ball tonight. He scored from outside and inside, he looked comfortable alongside Ivey on the bench and Cade with the starters. He’s just such a skilled wing who gives you all the role player stuff.

Sure, he’s a liability when he’s gotta handle the ball in the open court, but that’s about the only weakness I’ve seen since his arrival. Tek is a dude. The Pistons should look into getting more knockdown shooters like him. Seems like a good idea, but what do I know?

The other guy I want to talk about is Jalen Duren.

Now, I know there’s been banter places about moving him if the Pistons get the No. 1 pick and can draft Alexandre Sarr — you know, the center prospect currently averaging 9 points and 4 rebounds in the NBL while shooting 29% from 3 — but Duren is good.

He’s not perfect, far from it, but when the kid is on his game he is really impactful. He bullied Bam Adebayo, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, tonight with just his sheer size and athleticism. Duren finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists, hitting all five of his shots from the field and all four of his free throws.

He’s quicker than most centers and his rebounding is only matched by the best centers in the league. I really think Duren, with marginal defensive improvement this offseason, will easily be the second-best player on this team next season. Just be average on that end.

What did y’all think? Let us know in the comments.

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