3-on-3: Takeaways from Heat-Pistons

LeBron JamesRick Osentoski/US Presswire

LeBron James hit six clutch free throws down the stretch as the Heat held on to a win in Detroit.

Another ugly win for the Heat against a basement-dweller, but they'll take it. With Dwyane Wade on the bench for the sixth straight game, the Heat improved to 8-1 this season in his absence and 3-1 in 2011-12 games decided by five points or fewer.

What should encourage Heat fans after Miami (13-5) struggled to close the door on the lowly Pistons (4-15)? What's the biggest concern after the win? What's the biggest unknown as we head into Friday's matchup against the Knicks?

In another installment of Heat Index's 3-on-3 series, our writers give their takes on the Heat's 101-98 win over the Pistons.

1. What's the biggest takeaway from the Heat win?

Tom Haberstroh: That if Dwyane Wade comes back to the lineup on Friday, the Heat were able to weather the nine-game storm in his absence. If you told Erik Spoelstra that the Heat would go 8-1 while Wade was sidelined, he'd be thrilled with that record. As shaky as the Heat looked against sub-.500 teams, they got what they needed: wins.

Michael Wallace: Wade appeared to get a really good workout in on the Pistons court before sitting out his sixth straight game as he recovers from an ankle sprain. It looks like Wade is on the verge of returning to action, possibly as soon as Friday's home game against New York.

Brian Windhorst: Playing a fourth game in five nights after traveling 1,500 miles, any win is a good win. The Heat also played excellent end-of-game defense; that is why they won. And Spoelstra drew up some excellent plays during timeouts.

2. What's the Heat's biggest concern after the win?

Haberstroh: That the Heat's 10-point lead with 6:41 left wasn't enough. Detroit is one of the worst teams in the league and shouldn't have hung with the Heat down the stretch. Sure, Wade is out, but the Pistons were missing integral pieces too. It's nothing to get worked up about, but they lose that game if it's not the Pistons.

Wallace: Perhaps fatigue has something to do with it. But recently, the Heat seem to be playing to the level of their competition. How else do you explain double-digit wins over the Spurs, Lakers and 76ers and hard-fought struggles with the Bucks, Cavaliers and Pistons? But credit LeBron James and Chris Bosh for pushing Miami to 5-1 in that stretch.

Windhorst: The Heat have blown several big fourth-quarter leads. It happens in the NBA, but the Heat have let it happen against a few bad teams. Reducing stress is vital in this type of season.

3. What is the Heat's biggest question going forward?

Haberstroh: Will they finally get back to pace-and-space on Friday? The Heat haven't played up-tempo since Wade got hurt and they've really missed the easy buckets in transition. Will Wade be healthy enough to play? Will he be in good enough condition to run for 40 minutes? Apparently, I have many questions.

Wallace: What will it take for the Heat to shore up their post defense and rebounding? Miami was pounded again on the boards and gave up a ton of second-chance opportunities. With the Knicks and Bulls on deck, this is an issue the Heat must address in a hurry.

Windhorst: Has anyone noticed Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem are having the worst shooting seasons of their careers? The season is a quarter of the way over and they've been struggling since the start. Battier had been good on defense and Haslem has been rebounding remarkably well, but the shooting drop-off has been dramatic.