With Boston’s Al Horford up next, Heat’s Hassan Whiteside learning no two big men are alike

 

Hassan Whiteside, shown here guarding Memphis' Marc Gasol Saturday, moves on to face Boston's Al Horford Monday. (AP Photo)

Heat center Hassan Whiteside, shown here guarding Memphis’ Marc Gasol Saturday, moves on to face Boston’s Al Horford Monday. (AP Photo)

MIAMI – Nobody has had bigger challenges on the Heat lately than center Hassan Whiteside, who now is preparing to go against Al Horford for the first time with Horford in a Boston uniform.

And as Whiteside is finding out, although he may be in the midst of facing one talented big man after another, no two big men are alike.

Whiteside will have battled Philadelphia’s two-headed center of Joel Embid and Jahlil Okafor, Detroit’s Andre Drummond, Memphis’ Marc Gasol twice and Horford in one week. But going from Drummond to Gasol to Horford presents vastly different challenges.

The 6-foot-11 Drummond is more of a traditional big man. He has taken 72 shots from three-feet or closer and just three from 16 feet or beyond.

Gasol is a stretch five. He has attempted just 25 shots within three feet but has launched 75 shots from 16 feet or beyond, including shooting 17-of-41 on threes.

Gasol burned the Heat for 28 points in Memphis’ 110-107 win Saturday, 19 in the first half.

“I know he’s just going to stand on the outside and shoot jumpers and try to keep me away from the rim,” Horford said. “That’s why in the second half we kind of switched it. So I can be down there protecting the interior and rebounding a little bit more instead of just guarding him 20 feet away from the basket and he’s just shooting jumpers.”

Memphis coach David Fizdale’s plan was to pull Whiteside away from the basket. And Fizdale should know the damage Whiteside can do under the rim having served as a Heat assistant before taking over the Grizzlies this season.

“A lot of people, especially Fiz, he knows I block shots,” Whiteside said. “He had him out there on the three-point line. Whoever I was guarding was kind of out there, just kind of keeping me away from the paint.”

Memphis held Whiteside to 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, all below his averages. Still, Whiteside recorded his 13th double-double of the season, tied for the second most in the league.

Now, it’s Horford, who has returned after missing nine games because of a concussion. Miami hosts Boston on Monday before the Heat go back out on the road for games at Denver, Utah and Portland.

Horford is a mixture of Drummond and Gasol. He is 10-of-10 on the season on shots within three feet and has taken 18 shots (making half) from 16 feet or longer in his seven games. Horford’s percentage of shots within three feet is 25.6 compared to Gasol’s 14.6 percent and Drummond’s 37 percent.

“Those guys like to play out there and shoot jumpers,” Whiteside said. “You know it’s different kind of centers. You just have different kinds.

“I’m fine with it. But if we’re losing the rebounding battle or losing the interior, I’ll just go help. Whatever helps the team, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Horford is averaging 14.7 points and 6.9 rebounds this season.

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