TORONTO – Hassan Whiteside delivered.
Before the Miami Heat’s victory at Charlotte Wednesday, coach Erik Spoelstra approached Whiteside and, well, we’ll let the enigmatic Heat center tell the story.
“Coach told me, He said ‘H we’re going to need 20 rebounds from you.’” Whiteside offered.
“I said, ‘OK. Check. Somebody order 20 rebounds and I’ll deliver.’’’
And Whiteside did with 20 exactly to go along with 13 points on just nine shots (he made five) and three blocks. But it was how he accumulated those numbers that was impressive.
About three minutes into the third quarter Whiteside got tangled up with a group of Hornets underneath Miami’s basket. He was fouled by Cody Zeller and then flailed his arm.
The play was reviewed and Whiteside received a technical.
But he also received a wake-up call.
Until then, Whiteside had no points – he had attempted one shot – and eight rebounds. In the next 5 ½ minutes the Heat center posted eight points, six rebounds and three blocks. And Miami’s lead swelled from two points to 17.
“He took over in the third quarter,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. Clifford added that Whiteside is a “difference maker” because he’s “not only big (but) mobile and has a great quality, ability to change shots.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Whiteside being able to harness his emotions and take over the game shows how much he’s grown.
“Who knows what would have happened two years ago to get that emotional in a physical game where everybody was on edge,” Spoelstra said. “He was able to compartmentalize those emotions and transfer that into efficient play and really became a force in the paint on both ends.
“He was able to post up, get offensive rebounds, take some dishes right to the rim and then, his pick-and-roll defense was very sharp and he was finishing off all the possessions with in traffic rebounds.”
Whiteside said the technical was a result of the Hornets being physical. “I love that physical game,” he said.
And he was asked if he became angrier when they swarmed him and he picked up the technical.
“What do you think?” he said. “I’m out there playing with one hand. I’m just trying to contribute as much as I can with one hand and try to get rebounds.”
Whiteside continues to play with 13 stitches in his right hand from a cut that was opened a little more than two weeks ago against Phoenix. He said the hand will be re-evaluated after Miami returns from its games in Toronto on Friday and Washington on Saturday and the stitches could be removed then.
Although Whiteside had all 13 of his points, 15 of his rebounds and all three blocks in the second half, Spoelstra said his first half was “probably as impactful of a first half with the worst stats you could have. … He brought it and guys rallied around that effort.”
Whiteside will take it.
“If coach Spo says I’m impacting the game, I’m impacting the game,” Whiteside said. “Spo is always the first one to get on me. He always gets on me if I’m not playing well or I’m playing well, he’ll let me know.”