MIAMI – They came in a flurry.
Hassan Whiteside had gone more than 20 ½ minutes without committing a foul during Sunday’s loss to the Trail Blazers when it all changed. In a span of 4 ½ minutes in the third quarter he was called for four fouls, the first on the offensive end and three while playing defense.
After the fourth, which came with 4:10 remaining in the third quarter and the Heat trailing Portland by six, an obviously frustrated Whiteside held his hands in the air as if to say ‘I didn’t move’ and then walked straight to the bench before even checking if he was being removed.
He was. … as Willie Reed was summoned by coach Erik Spoelstra.
The fouls were the primary reason Whiteside became a non-factor for the second half after starting strong. He had 10 points and four rebounds in the first 4:18, scoring his team’s first 10 points.
Whiteside finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. He was 8-of-15 from the floor after going 6-of-9 in the first quarter.
Spoelstra defended his $98-million center following the game.
“We see it differently,” Spoelstra said about the calls. “Who cares? Those are the plays I want him to make. I told him when he came to the bench, I want him going vertical, I want him being a presence.
“I thought he did that. He’s getting so much more savvy in terms of being able to block shots and protect the rim. He had one where he went up vertical and forced a miss and another one where he didn’t jump and I thought he was there. Both of them they called fouls. He’s building the right habits.”
Whiteside said he was playing defense the way he’s been playing all season.
“They thought it was a foul I guess,” he said. “I watch film on myself all day and I know the NBA rules. They got called for fouls today.”
Whiteside closed with his 12th consecutive double-double – breaking Rony Seikaly’s franchise mark of 11 straight – but barely. His 10th rebound came with 32 seconds remaining in the game.
Whiteside was a candidate for the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. He entered the game averaging 21.5 points, 15.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while shooting 86.4 percent (19 of 22) in the previous two games this week.