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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, November 1st (All times eastern)

Detroit Pistons (0-0) at Miami Heat (0-0), 8 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat will open the 2007-08 season when the two Eastern Conference powerhouses collide this evening at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The Pistons went 53-29 last season and reached the conference finals for the fifth straight year. They won their third straight Central Division title and captured the top seed in the East playoffs. The Pistons swept Orlando in round one and eliminated Chicago in six in the semis. However, Detroit was bounced by Cleveland, 4-2, in the conference finals.

Richard Hamilton led the Pistons in scoring (19.8 ppg) during the regular season, while Rasheed Wallace grabbed a team-best 7.2 rebounds and point guard Chauncey Billups dished out a club-best 7.2 assists.

Wallace averaged 12.3 points in 75 games and Tayshaun Prince had another excellent season, playing in all 82 regular-season games and posting 14.3 points, 5.2 boards and 2.8 assists. Head coach Flip Saunders, who became the general of the Pistons on July 21, 2005, returns for this third season.

Detroit had a solid draft, as it selected multi-talented guard Rodney Stuckey with the 15th overall pick and UCLA's Arron Afflalo with the 27th pick of round one. Stuckey, though, had surgery on his broken left hand Thursday and is expected to be sidelined for about six weeks.

Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars accomplished his main goal during the offseason in signing Billups, who was an unrestricted free agent, to a multi-year contract. Billups, the MVP of the 2004 NBA Finals, averaged 17.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in 70 games during the 2006-07 regular season.

Hamilton is expected to miss tonight's game, as he tends to a family emergency. The Detroit Free Press reported on Thursday that the Hamilton is missing the game, adding the reason for the emergency is unknown. Afflalo is expected to start in Hamilton's place

Miami, meanwhile, went 44-38 last season and won the Southeast Division before being swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Bulls. The Heat, who defeated Dallas in six games during the 2006 NBA Finals, were plagued by a myriad of injuries in 2006-07.

All-Star center Shaquille O'Neal missed more than half the season because of a knee injury and leading scorer Dwyane Wade was sidelined 25 of the last 29 games due to a shoulder injury. Wade, the 2006 NBA Finals MVP, underwent a pair of successful surgeries after the playoffs. The operations were to repair his dislocated left shoulder and his left patella tendon.

Wade averaged a franchise-record 27.4 points per game, assists (7.5 apg) and steals (2.1 spg). He is out indefinitely to rest, while O'Neal is listed as probable for Thursday's game. O'Neal played in just 40 games last year and averaged 17.3 points and 7.4 rebounds.

The Heat made a deal before the season started and acquired swingman Ricky Davis as part of a blockbuster five-player trade with Minnesota. The Heat also acquired veteran center Mark Blount in the deal which sent forwards Antoine Walker, Michael Doleac and Wayne Simien along with a future conditional first- round pick to the Timberwolves.

Davis, who is in the final year of a contract that pays nearly $7 million per season, averaged 17 points, 4.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 2006-07. Blount recorded 12.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest last year.

Head coach Pat Riley will be back on the bench for the Heat. Riley, who has also coached the Lakers and Knicks during his illustrious coaching career, has won five championships as the general of the Lakers (1982, 1985, 1987, 1988) and Heat (2006). He also guided New York to the championship round in 1994.

The Pistons went 2-1 against Miami last season, and have won four of five and 15 of the last 19 matchups. Both teams have split the last 14 encounters in South Beach.

11/01 15:51:55 ET


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