The final regular-season meeting between the Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat won’t result in any change in the Eastern Conference standings. What it might serve as is a final scouting opportunity for two clubs that could be headed for a playoff showdown.
The Pistons go for their sixth straight victory and look to move closer to locking up home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs when they face the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Detroit easily has the best record in the East, and also leads San Antonio for the best overall mark in the league and the battle for home-court throughout the postseason. The Pistons’ 34-3 home record is tops in the NBA.
Detroit pulled to within three victories of tying the franchise single-season record by defeating New Orleans 101-93 on Tuesday night.
“Antonio was great tonight,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “He’s been playing like that for a while now. He has a lot of confidence in himself.”
McDyess didn’t start, but played a team-high 37 minutes. He is shooting 61 percent (33-for-54) and has averaged 15.0 points during the win streak, more than seven above his average.
While the Pistons’ main focus is securing home court, they need only four wins in their final eight games to break the team record set during the 63-19 season of 1988-89—when they won the first of back-to-back NBA championships.
“We’re not going to chase that record, but if it comes, it comes,” Saunders said. “Our focus right now is health and staying sharp. We’re going to rest some guys and give our bench extended minutes to get them ready for the playoffs.”
The suspension of Wallace, who served an automatic one-game ban for receiving 16 technical fouls, ended Detroit’s record run of 73 straight games with the same starting lineup: Wallace, Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton. Counting last year’s playoffs, the streak was 98 games.
Miami has struggled with injuries of late and struggled somewhat on the court, dropping two of three since an 18-3 surge. The Heat have lost starting point guard Jason Williams for the rest of the regular season due to a sore knee, although he may return for playoffs, and starting forward James Posey has missed three straight games with ankle tendinitis.
The Heat dropped road games on Saturday and Sunday to Cleveland and New Jersey, respectively, but returned home Tuesday and routed Milwaukee 115-89.
Miami leads the Nets by 3 1/2 games for the No. 2 seed in the East. If the Heat secure that spot, they wouldn’t face the Pistons until the conference finals.
Shaquille O’Neal had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and five other Miami players scored in double figures.
“That’s one of the better games, more complete games that we’ve played in a long time,” Miami coach Pat Riley said after his team opened with a 13-0 run and never trailed.
Dwyane Wade had accounted for 41 percent of Miami’s offense in its previous three games, and Riley asked his players to take some of the pressure off the team’s scoring leader. Wade took just 10 shots and finished with 14 points against the Bucks.
The Heat have lost 12 of their last 15 games against the Pistons.