MIAMI – Hassan Whiteside scored the Heat’s first nine points Monday and in 7:47 had as many rebounds (five) as the Magic in the first quarter.
By halftime, the Heat’s 7-foot center had a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) and was dominating Orlando’s 6-9 starting center, Bismack Biyombo.
But eight minutes into the third quarter, coach Erik Spoelstra removed Whiteside, who had 19 points and 14 rebounds. As it turned out, Whiteside was done for the night, once again spectating for the final quarter as the Heat fell behind by 14 points before another furious rally got them back into the game. But Miami fell short, dropping a 111-109 decision to the team with the worst record in the league.
Whiteside, who returned after missing one game with a stomach illness, has become so used to watching fourth quarters that he shrugged it off when asked why he once again filled the role of a $98 million cheerleader.
“I played my average minutes, you know,” he said, not so subtly. “I average, what, 22 minutes, 23 minutes. So that’s pretty much how it’s been.
“But coach went with the team that he wanted to get the win with and it’s coach’s decision. I can’t do nothing about that.”
Whiteside, who played 22:44, not only had his way early, but the Heat were without Kelly Olynyk for all but 6:41 of the game after Olynyk suffered a strained left shoulder that will be re-evaluated on Tuesday.
Still, Whiteside could not get on the court for the final 16 minutes and he was asked if he thought with Olynyk unavailable this was the night he would have played more down the stretch.
“Maybe. Maybe,” he said, not sure how to answer. “I mean, how long I know Spo? About four years? So, I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t know. It’s hard to predict. It’s hard to predict. It’s hard to gauge nowadays.”
But Whiteside sat even as the offense once again bogged down the final three minutes. Miami scored 16 points in 4:41, capped by a Josh Richardson finger roll that tied the score at 109 with 2:53 to play. Those would be Miami’s final points of the game.
The Heat missed their final five shots as Whiteside watched.
Bam Adebayo played all but 13 seconds of the fourth quarter and the rookie finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, seven in the final 12 minutes. Whiteside and Adebayo played just 1:13 seconds together at the end of the first half.
James Johnson, one of the three Heat captains who is going through struggles of his own, attempted to keep Whiteside’s spirit buoyed.
“We can take some plusses from this game,” Johnson said. “Whiteside came out really strong, really helped us, he was running the floor. Kind of shows us the level we can get.”