Beasley ends slump to lead Heat past Pistons

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—Michael Beasley(notes) broke out of his slump Wednesday night.

Charlie Villanueva(notes) never got a chance.

Beasley had 28 points and nine rebounds while Villanueva spent the entire game on the bench as the Miami Heat won their sixth straight game, beating the Detroit Pistons 98-81.

Beasley came into the game averaging just 10.1 points in his previous seven games, but had 15 by the half against the Pistons.

“This felt great,” said Beasley, who made 11 of 22 shots, most of which came from the paint. “We needed to step up with Jermaine (O’Neal) out, so I wanted to be aggressive. I didn’t decide ahead of time to attack the basket, but that’s what they were giving me.”

Beasley’s big night not only came with O’Neal (knee) sidelined, but with Dwyane Wade(notes) having a rare poor game. Wade had just 10 points, one assist and three rebounds.

“Michael bounced back tonight with what I thought was a very intelligent game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He was moving the ball, and he let the game come to him and was very efficient in taking care of his opportunities. Two days ago, he was in the gym for two hours with the coaches, working on fundamentals, and you could see that in his rhythm tonight.”

At the same time that Beasley was getting more comfortable with his game, Villanueva was wondering why he never got a chance to play at all. The forward has been a disappointment since signing a large free-agent contract last summer, but had kept a spot in Detroit’s rotation until this week. He didn’t play in the second half of Sunday’s loss to Chicago, then picked up his first DNP-CD in two years on Wednesday.

“You’re talking to the wrong man,” he said. “I don’t know what is going on. No one has said anything to me. All I can do is go out there, play if they put me in the game and cheer on my teammates if they don’t.”

Villanueva has been bothered by a sore back, but neither he nor Pistons coach John Kuester said that had anything to do with his benching against Chicago and Miami.

“We made some changes with our rotation and we wanted to give some other guys a look right now,” Kuester said, adding that he’ll decide on Villanueva’s status on a game-by-game basis. “It was my decision. That’s the direction that I want to go in right now.”

Dorell Wright(notes) added 17 points off the bench for Miami, while Quentin Richardson(notes) had 16.

“We noticed that Dwyane was kind of struggling a bit tonight, but that’s why you have a team out there,” Richardson said. “We have different guys who can step up, and we showed that tonight.”

The Pistons have lost nine straight and 16 of their past 18. Detroit, already missing Richard Hamilton(notes) (ankle) and Chris Wilcox(notes) (hamstring), lost Jason Maxiell(notes) to a back strain in the first quarter.

Rodney Stuckey(notes) had 18 points for Detroit and Tayshaun Prince(notes) added 17.

“This is tough, even though we’ve been doing this all season,” Will Bynum(notes) said. “We’ve got to do a better job out there and give max effort.”

With Maxiell out and Villanueva benched, rookie forwards Austin Daye(notes) and DaJuan Summers(notes) got more playing time, but finished with just 11 points and seven rebounds in 50 minutes.

“I thought the young kids didn’t take advantage of the opportunities they got,” Kuester said. “The energy has to be there and so does the discipline. That wasn’t there tonight.”

The Pistons jumped out to an early 19-9 lead, but Miami outscored them 35-12 over the next 12 minutes to take control of the game. The Heat shot 50 percent in the first half, and had almost as many offensive rebounds (eight) as the Pistons had defensive rebounds (nine).

“This wasn’t the most efficient game we’ve had, especially offensively, but the important thing is the win,” Spoelstra said.

Notes: O’Neal said before the game that he hopes to return to practice on Thursday, six days after hyperextending his right knee in a win over Milwaukee. … X-rays on Maxiell were negative; his status for Detroit’s game on Friday against Phoenix is unknown. … Detroit went 2-13 in March, its most losses in a month since going 0-13 in April 1994.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Miami
M. Beasley Michael Beasley
11-22,  28 Pts
9 Rebs, 3 Assists
 Detroit
T. Prince Tayshaun Prince
6-10,  17 Pts
6 Rebs, 6 Assists

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Wednesday, Mar 31