MIAMI – The Heat head to the West Coast for the final time this year to start their longest road trip of the season in which they play six games in 11 days.
Miami starts with a back-to-back in Phoenix and Sacramento before spending four days in L.A. for games Friday against the Lakers and Sunday against the Clippers.
Here are three things to watch …
Whiteside vs. Cousins: The second and final matchup of the year between Hassan Whiteside and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, two of the more talented, yet polarizing, centers in the league, will be Wednesday assuming Whiteside returns after being poked in the eye. He missed Sunday’s game. The two former teammates (both started their NBA careers in Sacramento) faced off in Miami’s fourth game of the year. Whiteside had 14 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Cousins countered with 30 points, seven boards and one block. The Heat won in overtime. Reports persist the Kings will entertain trading Cousins and all the excess baggage he brings. The questions remains could the two one day be swapped for each other?
L.A. story: The Heat will face the Lakers and Clippers during the same trip for just the second time in their history. Two years ago Miami played the two L.A. teams in the Staples Center in mid-January and won both games, pushing its record to 17-21. Both team already have played in Miami with the Clippers escaping with a 102-98 victory and the Heat defeating the Lakers, 115-107, on the night Miami retired Shaquille O’Neal’s number. The Clippers will be without forward Blake Griffin, who had surgery on his right knee on Dec. 20. He is expected to miss four to six weeks. The Clippers have lost six straight entering tonight’s game against the Suns.
Health of the Heat: This has become a weekly (no, daily) storyline. Miami was without five players for Sunday’s 107-98 loss to the Pistons including Whiteside, Goran Dragic (back) and Justise Winslow (shoulder). The Heat are hoping to get them back sooner rather than later and could even see Dion Waiters (groin) return during the trip. Waiters has missed 19 games but is expected to travel. Miami has lost 140 games to injuries, including Chris Bosh.