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Heat take losing streak into matchup vs. improved Pistons

Mar 10, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) argues a call against the Washington Wizards in the first half at Kaseya Center. Mandatory Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat fought their way out of the play-in tournament and reached the NBA Finals last season. They would like to avoid that extra step this spring, which is why their weekend visit to Detroit could prove pivotal.

The Heat will be looking to snap a four-game losing streak when they face the Pistons on Friday and will remain in the Motor City for a Sunday afternoon tilt.

The Heat (35-30) are currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings and need to finish in the top six to avoid the play-in tournament.

In their latest defeat, the Heat trailed the red-hot Denver Nuggets by a point entering the fourth quarter and were outscored 28-17 over the final 12 minutes in the 100-88 loss.

“When the (Nuggets) want to put on the jets, they’ve been able to leave teams behind in the dust and that’s what it felt like (Wednesday),” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the team’s opponent in last season’s NBA Finals. “It felt like they just flipped a switch in those last four minutes.”

Miami shot 42.5 percent from the field in the latest meeting and only knocked down five 3-pointers in 21 attempts. The Heat are 2-12 when failing to reach the 100-point mark.

“Clearly it was a struggle for us to score,” Spoelstra said. “We had moments and that’s fine actually if we could have kept it in the mud. But they had their burst and we stayed where we were and that was basically the game.”

Miami has won its first two meetings with Detroit this season. The Heat eked out a 103-102 season-opening victory in October. The second meeting came earlier this month, when they posted a 118-110 triumph on March 5 as Jimmy Butler had 26 points and eight assists.

During the current losing streak, Butler has been held to 18.0 points per game with only two made 3-pointers in 11 attempts.

The Heat are not expected to have Tyler Herro available this weekend. He’s been sidelined the past nine games due to a foot injury.

“He’s making progress,” Spoelstra said.

The Pistons (12-53) will be seeking their first three-game winning streak this season. They defeated the Charlotte Hornets 114-97 on Monday, then topped Toronto 113-104 on Wednesday. They are 3-1 during a six-game homestand.

The Pistons’ Jalen Duren had 24 points and a career-high 23 rebounds against the Raptors, recording his third 20-20 game of the season.

“We’re coming together as a team,” Duren said. “We’re all feeling good playing (and) I feel like everyone is catching their rhythm.”

In a rough season, Detroit no longer occupies the Eastern Conference cellar. The Pistons have passed the Washington Wizards in the standings, at least for now.

“We talk about running through the tape as a team and finishing the year strong, so that’s kinda been my mindset these last whatever games it’s been since All-Star break,” Duren said. “Just running through the tape.”

Detroit star guard Cade Cunningham didn’t play in the fourth quarter against the Raptors. Head coach Monty Williams had Cunningham ready to enter the game late but chose to let backup Marcus Sasser close out the victory.

“I just decided to roll with that group. … The one thing that’s tough is when a guy’s sat that long and you try to bring him back, that’s pretty hard,” Wiiliams said. “He could’ve done it, but I just decided to sit him. Just glad it worked out for us.”

–Field Level Media

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