Who should be NBA’s MVP, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year? Heat coach and players reveal their picks

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) goes up for a shot against Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI — With the NBA regular season coming to a close, awards season is near.

After Sunday’s practice, we asked coach Erik Spoelstra and nine Heat players who they would vote for as the league’s Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year. Continue reading “Who should be NBA’s MVP, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year? Heat coach and players reveal their picks”

Five takeaways: Heat clinch playoff spot, move up to sixth in East with comeback win over Hawks

Atlanta Hawks forward DeAndre’ Bembry (95) shoots as Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside, left, and guard Josh Richardson, center, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 3, 2018, in Miami. The Heat won 101-98. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI — The wait is over.

After missing out on a few opportunities to clinch a playoff spot over the past week, the Heat (42-36) finally secured a spot in the postseason with a dramatic 101-98 comeback victory over the Hawks (22-56) on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. It marked the fourth day Miami had a chance to punch its playoff ticket, as it came up empty on the previous three with the help of Saturday’s disappointing home loss to the Nets. Continue reading “Five takeaways: Heat clinch playoff spot, move up to sixth in East with comeback win over Hawks”

Hassan Whiteside on Joel Embiid: ‘Another dude. He just talks more’

Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid drives past Miami’s Hassan Whiteside during the second half of the Heat’s victory Thursday in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI – Hassan Whiteside is done talking. At least with Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“I’m not talking no more, no more talking,” Whiteside said after being asked of the latest altercation between the two. “No more talking. 2018, when he talks, no more.”

Whiteside said Embiid is “just another dude. He just talks more.”

The bad blood between the two centers spilled during the Heat’s 108-99 victory over the Sixers on Thursday as their teams faced each other for the fourth time in five weeks.

Embiid, the Sixers rising All-Star center, accused the Heat center of a “dirty” play when Whiteside threw a forearm at Embiid’s back as the two got tangled running up the floor. After review, Embiid was assessed a personal foul while Whiteside was slapped with a technical.

“He tried to hit me in the back, which is kind of dirty because of the fact that I’ve had back problems,” Embiid said before issuing a warning.

“We’re going to see about that. I won’t forget about that.”

Whiteside saw it differently.

“I was falling forward, he tried to throw an elbow,” he said. “I put my hand up and my hand hit my face.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra thought the play warranted a double foul.

“They got tangled up, Embiid grabbed Hassan and Hassan is actually the one that yanked his arm and hit himself,” Spoelstra said. “He gave himself a flagrant foul.”

Embiid, who is having an All-NBA season, was outplayed by Whiteside for the first time in their head-to-head meetings this season. Whiteside led the Heat with 26 points and eight rebounds, making 9-of-12 shots. Embiid was just 5-of-18 from floor while scoring 17 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

In three head-to-head meetings Embiid is averaging 19.0 points and 8.7 rebounds, Whiteside is averaging 15.3 points and 9.3 rebounds. The teams split the four-game season series but the Heat won 2-of-3 in which both centers played.

“I love the Hassan Whiteside we saw last night out there competing, fierce, playing to an empty tank,” Spoelstra said. “Those were 28 full minutes. I don’t know if he could have played over 30 minutes at the intensity he was playing last night

“He has been putting in a lot of time. It’s about his approach, his behavior, his habits every single day. Eventually you get the results you’re looking for. I’m really encouraged with the way he’s been going in that direction. The competition level was high and fierce. I like that guy.

Charles Barkley, the TNT analyst, said on ‘Inside the NBA’ that Whiteside kicked Embiid’s “ass.”

Embiid believed he should not have even been assessed a personal foul on the play. It was his fourth and he came out of the game.

“I didn’t think I touched him,” Embiid said. “But then they called a technical foul on him because obviously he’s the one that made a dirty play.”

Embiid then got personal, as he has in the past.

“He hits really soft, so I didn’t feel anything,” Embiid said. “But just the action of him trying to do that I think is pretty messed up. I don’t care what we have outside of basketball but at the same time, you’ve got to respect the rules of basketball and play basketball and have fun doing it. But I’m not worried about it. We lost the game. Right now I’m worried about are we going to get better.”

The two centers got into a Twitter beef during the preseason when less than three minutes into the game in Kansas City, Whiteside fouled Embiid who then gestured that the Heat should remove Whiteside from the game.

Whiteside didn’t appreciate the video being posted on social media and responded by saying: “Funny how ya’ll don’t show me telling him the same and 1-7 shooting or the first 2 flops I mean blocks.”

Embiid shot back: “Dude they had to take your ass out or you would’ve fouled out in 5 min… And we’re talking about Preseason, not regular season…..”

And: “And keep caring about stats and not your team success…..”

Whiteside then took a shoot at Embiid’s injury history, Tweeting at Embiid “31 games in 3yrs. Hopefully I get to see you regular season.” Whiteside added the hashtag ‘SolarEclipse’ and ‘EmbiidEclipse.’

Embiid then insisted he thought he was using a burner account.

Whiteside is averaging 14.8 points and 11.8 rebounds this season while Embiid, who was voted in as a starter for the All-Star game, is averaging 23.4 points and 11.0 rebounds. Embiid has played 53 games, six more than Whiteside

[Here is why Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he ‘got lost in the sauce’]

[Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Dwyane Wade: ‘He’s filling his cup from the fountain of youth’]

[Erik Spoelstra says missed calls in Washington could have changed ‘momentum and complexion’ of game]

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Five takeaways: Defense and depth carry Heat to important win over 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons, center, drives as Miami Heat’s James Johnson, left and Goran Dragic (7) defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 8, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI — The Heat needed vintage Dwyane Wade to beat the 76ers last week. On Thursday, the Heat needed a vintage defensive performance.

Miami (35-31) used the type of defense that has won it so many games over the years to earn an important 108-99 victory over Philadelphia (35-29) at AmericanAirlines Arena. The win tied the season series between the two teams 2-2 and pulled the seventh-place Heat within one game of the sixth-place 76ers in the Eastern Conference standings. Continue reading “Five takeaways: Defense and depth carry Heat to important win over 76ers”

As Heat get healthier, Erik Spoelstra’s rotation decisions get tougher … especially in the frontcourt

Miami Heat’s James Johnson (16) shoots over New York Knicks’ Michael Beasley (8) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Miami. The Heat won 107-103. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI — As the Heat get healthier, coach Erik Spoelstra’s rotation decisions get tougher.

With Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson back from injury, Spoelstra continues to experiment with different frontcourt combinations with Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo, Whiteside and Johnson all vying for playing time as part of Miami’s power rotation. But the Olynyk-Johnson pairing has been the most successful through the first 38 games.

Although Spoelstra has used 7-footers Whiteside and Olynyk as the Heat’s starting frontcourt in five consecutive games, it’s been Olynyk and Johnson who have been on the court together to close the past two games. Continue reading “As Heat get healthier, Erik Spoelstra’s rotation decisions get tougher … especially in the frontcourt”

With defense improving, Miami Heat hope to take advantage of favorable schedule

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, shown here during the Heat’s victory Monday, at Memphis, said the last two defensive efforts are something his team and build on. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

The Miami Heat’s winning streak is a modest two games, but this is the most encouraging two-game streak of the season.

The Heat return home to face Portland on Wednesday after winning 2-of-3 on the road, allowing them to get back to .500 (13-13) coming off one of the toughest stretches of the season.

The Heat will play nine of the next 13 games at home, but more importantly, a schedule in which they have played 15 road games and seven games against Boston, Cleveland, Golden State and San Antonio becomes much more favorable.

Miami has an opportunity to start climbing the conference standings. Saturday’s victory over Brooklyn in Mexico City started a 15-game stretch in which Miami faces 13 teams at .500 or below. The two teams with winning records: at Boston Dec. 22 and home against Detroit Jan. 3.

And the Heat are off to an encouraging start with two solid wins by a combined 37 points, including Monday’s 107-82 hammering of the Grizzlies in Memphis. Yes, the wins are against two teams now a combined 16 games under .500. But the Heat took care of business, winning two game they needed to win, and both relatively convincing.

Both games followed a similar pattern in that the Heat clamped down defensively to break open a contest that was tight in the third quarter. While the Nets kept the game competitive until late in the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies wilted under the Heat’s pressure.

Tri-captain Goran Dragic was asked if he sees the defense starting to play like the Heat expected from the start.

“I sense that a little bit, especially when we are in the right position every time,” he said. “Even against San Antonio we felt our defense (was) trending. As long as we can challenge those shots we can be in good position. The last three games was really good.”

The Heat started the three-game trip with a 117-105 loss at San Antonio. But that was followed by two games in which Miami held its opponents to less than 90 points in back-to-back games for the first time this season.

And the most encouraging part; both games were played without 7-foot center Hassan Whiteside, the team’s defensive anchor who continues to rehabilitate a second bone bruise on his left knee.

Whiteside has missed six straight games; he sat out five earlier with a different bone bruise on the same knee. Thursday marks two weeks since the Heat announced he would miss one to two weeks with the injury. Coach Erik Spoelstra was not sure if he’d return Wednesday against Portland when asked Monday, waiting to hear more about his progress during the last week while the Heat were on the road.

“It has to be a commitment,” coach Erik Spoelstra said about the recent defensive improvement. “It’s not easy, first of all, to make that commitment defensively and then to do it consistently, every single game, and then to be able to close out teams in the second half.”

The Heat are breaking an early-season trend in which they struggled mightily in the third quarter. Miami assumed control against Brooklyn and Memphis in the third quarter, especially defensively.

The two opponents averaged 38 points in the second half, shooting a combined 32.1 percent from the floor and 25.9 percent on 3-pointers.

“In the past we had trouble with third quarters now we finally are figuring things out,” Dragic said. “As long as we continue to play like that we’re going to win a lot of games.”

Spoelstra, who will tie Pat Riley as the Heat’s all-time winningest coach with his next victory, believes that effort on the defense end has led to a smoother, more free-flowing offense.

“Hopefully that’s something we can build on,” he said. “I liked how we got stronger, tougher more resilient in both second halves – different guys in each game – and took a lot of pressure off ourselves by getting multiple stops and then the offense becomes a little easier going down the other end.”

[Erik Spoelstra says game against Memphis has no more significance since David Fizdale was fired. Don’t believe him]

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[Heat guard Dion Waiters dealing with pain in right elbow, loss of favorite team’s quarterback]

[Heat forward James Johnson on Civil Rights Museum: ‘Monuments like that give you the chills’]

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James Johnson after Heat’s 7-9 start: ‘This is code red right now’

MIAMI — Heat tri-captain James Johnson has a message for his teammates after their 7-9 start to the season.

“We’re no longer twitching the needle,” Johnson said after Wednesday morning’s shootaround session. “This is code red right now. We don’t have no time to wait. This is where the playoff games or games to get in the playoffs reside right now.” Continue reading “James Johnson after Heat’s 7-9 start: ‘This is code red right now’”

Heat forward Okaro White to miss Wednesday’s game vs. Wizards with foot injury

Miami Heat forward Josh Richardson (0) and Miami Heat forward Okaro White (15) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, in Denver. The Nuggets won 95-94. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

MIAMI — The Heat will be without forward Okaro White in Wednesday’s home game against the Wizards.

White, 25, suffered a left foot injury in Tuesday’s practice. He will be re-evaluated Wednesday. Continue reading “Heat forward Okaro White to miss Wednesday’s game vs. Wizards with foot injury”

Five takeaways from Heat-Jazz: This long road trip is already a success

Miami Heat forward Josh Richardson (0) celebrates after scoring a 3-pointer against the Utah Jazz in the second half during an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY — In an NBA full of points and fast-paced play, the Heat and Jazz went back in time to the days of grind-it-out games.

Miami (6-6) survived the defensive duel to defeat Utah 84-74 at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Friday. With the win, the Heat moved to 3-2 on their six-game trip. Continue reading “Five takeaways from Heat-Jazz: This long road trip is already a success”

Five takeaways: Heat blow 23-point lead in fourth quarter vs. Clippers. But it didn’t matter, Miami hung on for the win

LOS ANGELES — This is exactly what the Heat needed.

After starting the six-game road trip with a frustrating one-point loss to the Nuggets, the Heat (4-5) bounced back with a 104-101 win over the Clippers (5-4) at Staples Center on Sunday.

The victory didn’t come without some drama. Miami entered the fourth quarter with a 23-point lead, but Los Angeles began the final period on an unbelievable 35-11 run to take a 101-100 lead with 26 seconds to go. Continue reading “Five takeaways: Heat blow 23-point lead in fourth quarter vs. Clippers. But it didn’t matter, Miami hung on for the win”