The Detroit Pistons take on the Miami Heat today, Dec. 6, at FTX Arena. The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. EST.
The 6-19 Pistons enter the game coming off a 122-112 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Detroit has lost four out of its last five games. The 11-12 Heat are coming off an overtime victory over the Boston Celtics. After losing four straight games, Miami has won four of its previous five games.
The Pistons will be without two key rotation players in this matchup. Star point guard Cade Cunningham remains out indefinitely with a shin injury. The sophomore is still mulling his options between rest and surgery. Sophomore wing Isaiah Livers is also out with a shoulder injury he sustained in Detroit’s victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 1. This will be Livers’ second straight missed game.
The Heat have a healthy roster entering the game. All-Star Jimmy Butler recently returned to the lineup after missing seven straight games.
This is the first of three matchups this season between the Detroit Pistons and the Miami Heat. Miami is working to position itself for another deep playoff run after making the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021-22. Detroit appears to be on a path to the bottom of the league standings after early season hopes of making the play-in were derailed.
The Pistons have their work cut out for them in this matchup. It is the first of a three-game road trip for the team. However, this team has grown since the early season gut punch left them routinely losing games in blowout fashion. The team developed to be more competitive. The losses continue to mount up, but the on-court product is much improved.
Here are two things to monitor in the Pistons Tuesday night matchup.
Who draws the Jimmy Butler matchup?
The Detroit Pistons’ primary defensive focus is on who will guard Miami’s star wing. Butler leads Miami in points per game, averaging 21.2. He is often the primary initiator on offense and he is one of the team’s primary playmakers next to Kyle Lowry. Butler averages 5.9 assists per game compared to Lowry’s six.
The Pistons are not going to be able to stop Butler. The veteran forward will find his spots and control the game as he so often does. However, Detroit needs to throw bodies at him. Livers would have been the obvious choice to mark Butler on defense, but without him unavailable, the Pistons will have to turn to other defenders.
Killian Hayes makes sense to guard Butler. The third-year point guard has the size at 6-5 and 195 pounds. Hayes possesses the length and defensive skillset that could help him slow Butler down. Hayes has the lateral quickness to stick in front of Butler and the strength to not get completely dominated should Butler post him up.
Hamidou Diallo can also draw the Butler matchup. Diallo has a similar build to Hayes. He has the length and the strength to be a good matchup against Butler. If Hayes is the one who draws the primary Butler matchup, Diallo is a prime candidate to guard Miami’s star when Hayes goes to the bench.
At all costs, the Detroit Pistons should avoid Saddiq Bey and Bojan Bogdanović guarding Butler. Neither player has a chance at holding their own against him. It is likely the Heat will look to force switches that will bring one of these two onto Butler.
Can Jaden Ivey bounce back from recent struggles?
Rookie shooting guard Jaden Ivey jumped out to a hot start to the season. He instantly established himself as one of the premiere rookies in the league this season. However, the 20-year-old has found himself in a slump recently. Ivey missed three games due to an injury. The young guard made his return in Detroit’s victory over the Mavericks. In the two games since his return, Ivey’s struggles have continued.
The Purdue product is averaging 13 points per game off of 33.3 percent shooting from the floor and 25 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Ivey is adding 4.5 assists per game, but he also averages four turnovers over the past two games as well. Ivey’s scoring efficiency and ball security have continued to fall since Cunningham went down with an injury.
Now three games removed from his injury, Ivey has a chance to re-establish his place amongst the top-ranking rookies from the 2022 class. Miami big man Bam Adebayo will not make it easy for Ivey to bounce back from his recent struggles. Adebayo is one of the league’s best defensive centers. Ivey loves to attack the rim, and Adebayo is one of the best at protecting it. It is likely the more seasoned Adebayo will have a clear advantage over the rookie.
Ivey benefitted from Cunningham drawing so much attention on the offensive end of the court. It is no surprise he has struggled since Cunningham’s injury. A good performance tonight could be the spark that helps Ivey build his way back into the Rookie of the Year conversation.
(Featured Image Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)