Hassan Whiteside played just 15 minutes while battling foul trouble in Monday’s Game 2. His stats weren’t impressive either.
But there was a noticeable difference between the 12 minutes Whiteside played in Saturday’s Game 1 loss and the 15 minutes he logged in Game 2.
“His activity level was superb,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after Monday’s 113-103 win in Philadelphia that evened the series, 1-1. “Without those 15 minutes it might have been totally different. Those were much needed.”
The 28-year-old center finished with four points on 1-of-2 shooting, five rebounds and one block. But it was his increased energy that pleased Spoelstra, especially after Whiteside started the series with a lethargic performance.
Whiteside recorded two screen assists in Game 2 — a point of emphasis for him — after finishing with zero in the first game of the series. But he also finished Monday without a box out, according to NBA Advanced Stats.
“It was tough,” Whiteside said after playing through foul trouble in Game 2. ‘But Coach Spo was like, ‘You’re playing amazing,’ and that’s the only personal opinion I really care about. If my coaching staff is telling me I’m playing amazing … you know, I got the tough whistle tonight.”
Whiteside picked up his fourth foul with 9:25 remaining in the third quarter and never returned to the game.
“He got that fourth foul and I had the intention to put him back in the fourth,” Spoelstra said. “We just didn’t get around to it when they made their run. They went even smaller, but we can definitely build on that.”
Spoelstra didn’t mind all of the fouls, though. Even after Whiteside was called for his third foul in the second quarter while trying to pressure Sixers point guard Ben Simmons in the backcourt, Spoelstra saw it as a sign of aggressiveness.
“I was like, ‘I messed up,'” Whiteside said of the play. “But Coach Spo was like, ‘I love it. I love it. I’ll take the aggressiveness. I’ll take it. I love how aggressive you’ve been.’ They really made me feel a lot better about it.”
But through the first two games of the series, Whiteside has not been able to take advantage Joel Embiid’s absence. That’s obvious, even after a more energetic showing Monday.
Whiteside is averaging 3.0 points on 33.3 percent shooting and 5.0 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game in the playoffs, with the Sixers using their speed and small-ball lineups to bother him.
Those are underwhelming numbers from the Heat’s $98 million center. But Spoelstra saw Monday as a step in the right direction.
Stealing home-court advantage with a Game 2 win in Philadelphia helps, too.
“I was tough on myself,” Whiteside said Monday when asked about his disappointing performance in Game 1. “I didn’t really sleep that much. I was tough on myself. I really wanted to come out here and make a bigger impact like I did last playoffs. But it didn’t happen. At the end of the day, as long as we got the win, I can sleep well.”