NEW YORK – If Hassan Whiteside ever forgets, his coach will always remind him – Never be satisfied.
“He knows what I’m going to say,” Erik Spoelstra said after Whiteside’s monster game in the Heat’s 106-101 victory in Milwaukee on Wednesday. “I’m going to say, ‘Hey, great job Big Fella. Do it again on Friday.’”
Whiteside had season bests of 27 points and six blocks. He also added 13 rebounds and shot 10-of-12 in his most complete effort of the season. But this is the most maligned/scrutinized player on the Heat and it all will be forgotten if he has a downtick in effort when Miami (26-18) continues this five-game road trip in Brooklyn on Friday.
“That’s how coach Spoelstra is,” Whiteside said. “’He’s never going to let you take a breath. It’s always another one and another one. That’s why I’m trying every day to go big. That’s why I push myself the most I can (so) I can really be that focal point.”
Whiteside clearly was getting frustrated with the way things were trending since he returned from missing 13 games with a bruised left knee. In the 10 games prior to Wednesday, the Heat’s $98 million man did not play in the fourth quarter in five of them, including Monday’s loss in Chicago. In the others he logged a total of 23:56.
But after a solid start Wednesday, Spoelstra trusted Whiteside to close out the game. He played 31:41 and all but 10 seconds of the final 4:59.
“Every basketball player when they have a great game and they win, it always uplifts them,” Whiteside said. “I’m just glad coach allowed me to play (32) minutes. He left me out there, he really trusted me tonight. I’m just really happy about that
“I wanted to bounce back.”
Spoelstra saw the effort from the start when Whiteside had 10 points, four rebounds and a couple of blocks in the first 10 minutes.
“He was a monster tonight and you could see it from his very first block, you could see it from his very first over the top rebound, you could see it from his very first drive that he was playing with a different aggressiveness,” Spoelstra said.
Whiteside entered in the fourth quarter with the score tied at 90. After the teams swapped 3-pointers the Heat scored the next seven points that started with a Whiteside rebound, dunk on a lob pass from Justise Winslow and a block, all in 36 seconds. He added a couple of rebounds, and won a key jump ball with 14.8 seconds remaining and Miami leading by four.
“He got it going and he had it going on both ends of the floor,” Kelly Olynyk said. “He’s blocking shots, rebounding, making plays inside. We needed that from him. I think he needed that for himself too to keep himself going.”