Balanced Heat help playoff cause by topping Pistons
Tim Reynolds, AP Sports Writer
10:46 PM, Mar 3, 2018
MIAMI (AP) -- Kelly Olynyk and Josh Richardson each scored 17 points, and the Miami Heat enhanced their playoff hopes with a 105-96 win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.
James Johnson scored 14 points, Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow each had 13 and Dwyane Wade added 11 for Miami. Hassan Whiteside grabbed 19 rebounds for the Heat, who won for only the fourth time in their last 13 games.
Blake Griffin scored 31 points and Andre Drummond finished with 22 points and 18 rebounds for the Pistons, who were playing their fifth game in seven nights -- four of those on the road.
Reggie Bullock scored 11 points for the Pistons, who have lost eight of their last 10 overall -- and 13 of their last 14 on the road.
The win gave Miami a four-game cushion over No. 9 Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with both clubs having 19 games remaining. There's no shortage of shifting still possible in a jampacked East race for home-court advantage -- with this win, No. 8 Miami got within three games of No. 4 Washington.
Rodney McGruder's 3-pointer with 7:19 remaining put Miami up by eight, and Wade tried to set him up for another on the next Heat possession. Instead, McGruder made the extra pass to Olynyk for another 3 -- and in a span of about 30 seconds, a five-point lead swelled to 94-83.
That was Miami's first double-digit lead of the final quarter, and the Heat kept control the rest of the way.
Down by nine early, and after not leading by more than three in either of their last two games, the Heat caught fire in the first half. Miami outscored Detroit 47-20 over a 17-minute stretch, with Dragic and Olynyk each scoring nine in that span and the Heat holding the Pistons to 26 percent shooting.
Miami's lead was still 18 going into the final minute of the half, before the Pistons closed with a mild flurry.
Winslow committed a Flagrant-1 foul against Griffin and Detroit scored five points off that foul -- two free throws and a 3-pointer cutting Miami's lead to 59-46 at the break.
The Pistons steadily closed the gap in the third, outscoring Miami 24-15 and getting within four going into the fourth. They got within four on two other occasions early in the fourth, but no closer.
TIP-INS Pistons: Saturday started a stretch where Detroit plays six playoff contenders in a seven-game span. After that, nine of the Pistons final 13 are against teams under .500. ... Detroit outscored Miami in the first quarter of all four games this season, albeit by a total of nine points -- one on Saturday. ... Griffin hadn't scored more than 27 in his five previous games at Miami.
Heat: Bam Adebayo (personal reasons) was not with the team, while Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington (both with quad bruises) were again sidelined. Adebayo is expected to play Monday. ... The Heat had one field goal in the final 5:56 of the third.
Wade had a special pair of sneakers at his locker before the game, with the logo of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High adorning the toes and with the name of student Joaquin Oliver -- one of 17 victims of that school shooting near Miami last month -- printed on them. Oliver was buried in a Wade jersey; Wade met with his family Saturday.
In the four Miami-Detroit games this season, neither team used the same starting lineup twice. Both had 10 different players start at least one game in the season series, and only Dragic, Richardson and Reggie Bullock started all four matchups.
Pistons: Visit Cleveland on Monday.
Heat: Host Phoenix on Monday.
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