There's never an optimal time to play the league's best team.

But playing that team when it is riding a 24-game winning streak definitely makes things tougher.

Add your own nine-game losing streak, and you can use the firing squad analogy when the woeful Pistons face the surging Heat tonight in Miami.

Miami's streak, which is challenging the 33-game run of the 1971-72 Lakers, almost ended Wednesday night when the Heat had to overcome a 27-point, second-half deficit at Cleveland.

But LeBron James would not let the Heat lose, registering 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in the fourth quarter of the 98-95 victory.

So the Pistons come to town to face a team that is chasing history and a second consecutive NBA title.

GM Pat Riley's gamble of clearing cap space to lure James and power forward Chris Bosh to South Beach to play with Dwyane Wade has more than paid off. "They're just seeing out way ahead of time and, to me, Miami, the genius in what they did is they knew exactly what they were doing," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said Wednesday. "They went through the pain of 15 wins (in 2007-08), but they knew exactly what the hell they were doing."