Pistons locked in to first round matchup with LeBron James, Cavs following loss

Joe Johnson connected on a trio of triples in the fourth quarter, including a dagger with 46 remaining, helping propel the Miami Heat to a 99-93 win over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.

The loss, combined with an Indiana Pacers win, means the Pistons are now locked into the No. 8 seed and will face the top team in the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in a first round playoff matchup likely to begin this weekend.

The Pistons (43-38) entered the evening tied with the Pacers for seventh place in the East. However, with Indiana holding the tie-breaker over Detroit after going 3-1 in head-to-head matchups, the Pacers’ 102-90 win over the Knicks means the Pistons can do no better than match Indiana’s regular season record, relegating Detroit to the eighth seed one way or another.

The Heat (48-33) and Pistons spent much of the evening engaged in a back-and-forth affair before Johnson, acquired midseason off waivers, came alive midway through the fourth, scoring 15 of his team’s 17 points in one stretch, including back-to-back 3-pointers with under six minutes remaining that extended a one-point lead to seven in a matter of seconds.

Playing without the services of Reggie Jackson on Tuesday (abdominal strain), Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy delved deep into his bench, running a 10-man rotation that included the re-emergence of backup point guard Spencer Dinwiddie.

While Steve Blake assumed starting duties, responding with 10 first half points, Dinwiddie scored six points and delivered three assists in his first stretch of extended action since November.

Detroit will close out their regular season on Wednesday against the Cavaliers, though Cleveland is expected to rest the majority of their starters as they gear up for the start of the postseason this weekend.

The time and date for Game 1 of Detroit’s first round quarterfinals series has yet to be released, though schedule watchers have noticed that Quicken Loans Arena, where Game 1 will be played, is currently occupied on Saturday, leading to speculation that the two teams will kick things off on Sunday, April 17.

Additional Notes & Observations

  • The Pistons, who shot just 40.5 percent from the field as a team, were led by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 17 points. Joe Johnson finished with 25 to lead the Heat.
  • Andre Drummond dominated the glass, Hassan Whiteside dominated defensively. Drummond finished with 18 boards while Whiteside blocked three shots and altered numerous others.
  • After two DNP-CDs, rookie forward Stanley Johnson returned to the Pistons rotation and played 14 minutes, picking off a pass immediately upon his entry in the first quarter and finishing with five points and five rebounds.