AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Forward LeBron James was running out of time to get his first triple-double of the season.
With the Miami Heat comfortably ahead late in the third quarter, coach Erik Spoelstra did not want to leave his superstar on the court much longer. Fortunately for James, Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings obliged by missing a free throw and James’ rebound took Spoelstra off the hook.
“Once I found out he had nine, I said, ‘Well, he better be getting it soon’ and he did,” Spoelstra said. “His floor game and overall game was terrific tonight. He was putting pressure on the defense by making easy plays.”
James’ triple-double, the 37th of his career, carried the short-handed Miami Heat to a 110-78 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night at The Palace. It was the fourth time in his career he achieved a triple-double by the end of the third quarter.
“It’s been very elusive this year,” said James, who had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. “It’s always great to do it in this league. For us to come out and play the way we did and get that victory, it’s special.”
Center Udonis Haslem made his first six shots scored a season-high 17 points for the Heat while power forward Chris Bosh added 15 points and nine rebounds.
The Heat played without three starters — shooting guard Dwyane Wade (sore Achilles tendon and hamstring), point guard Mario Chalmers (thigh bruise) and center Greg Oden (back spasms), as well as top reserve Ray Allen (stomach virus). Miami is 13-7 without Wade this season.
Reserve center Chris Andersen contributed 13 points and shooting guard James Jones, who had not played since Jan. 17, started and scored 10 points.
Jones, who also had three assists, played 27 minutes after seeing just 70 minutes of action all season.
“It’s disappointing,” Jones, an 11-year veteran, said of his lack of activity. “You want to be out there and contribute but you’ve got to stay engaged. I took the approach of cheering my guys on and coaching guys when I see different things, making sure I stay involved in everything that’s going on out on the floor. And when (the little-used reserves) go out there and have an opportunity, we perform.”
Miami (49-22) lost eight of its previous 13 games, including an 84-83 squeaker to Eastern Conference frontrunner Indiana on Wednesday.
“You’ve got to move on in this league,” James said of the Indiana loss. “As much as you wanted that game on Wednesday, you’ve got to move on and learn from it and we did.”
Power forward Greg Monroe and reserve point guard Will Bynum had 12 points each for Detroit (26-46), which lost seven of its last eight games. Shooting guard Kyle Singler added 11 points but the Pistons suffered their largest loss this season.
Philadelphia has a chance to end its 26-game losing streak on Saturday with the Pistons coming to town.
“We have to put (this game) away right now. We have to focus on Philadelphia,” Detroit forward Josh Smith said. “We know that they’re struggling, so we have to try to go in there and not be that team to end the streak.”
James was content to be a facilitator most of the first half while his big men racked up the points. He had eight assists as the Heat jumped to a 57-42 lead.
Miami ended the half with 11 unanswered points, including three James layups.
“They punched us in the mouth and we never got back up,” Pistons interim head coach John Loyer said. “They changed the game with their energy to end the half and we didn’t have any energy in the second half.”
Miami’s lead grew to as much as 35 points.
NOTES: The Pistons held a halftime ceremony to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their first championship in 1988-89. Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars were among 11 players who attended. Dennis Rodman was conspicuous in his absence. … Heat F LeBron James said before the game that he would gladly take the $10-year, $292 million contract that Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera just received. “I’d opt out for that,” said James, who can become a free agent if he chooses this summer. … Miami won 11 of the last 13 meetings with Detroit. The Pistons have not won the season series since 2007-08. … Detroit’s frontcourt trio of C Andre Drummond, PF Greg Monroe and SF Josh Smith ranked in the league’s bottom 10 in free throw shooting among all qualifiers entering the game. Drummond was 125th and last at 41.6 percent, Smith at 122 (53.3) and Monroe at 116 (66.1).
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