It took Hassan Whiteside less than 10 minutes Saturday night to record his 31st double-double of the season.
Before the fourth quarter rolled around, Miami’s $98 million center was kicking his legs up on the bench, enjoying the first 30-point, 20-rebound performance of his career and the first in more than a decade by any Heat player.
That’s the kind of night it was for Whiteside and the kind of night it was for the Heat, which won its 10th consecutive game by demolishing the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers, 125-102, at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“I just want people to put some respect on my name,” said Whiteside, who prior to Saturday night’s dominating performance had taken a statistical back seat to Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic and others during the first nine games of the Heat’s win streak, averaging 12.4 points and 11.6 rebounds during the stretch.
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“We’ve just got to keep playing like we’re playing. We’re sharing the ball. We got enough pieces to win. We’re going to keep winning, get in these playoffs.”
Once 11-30 in what now seems like an entirely different season, the Heat (21-30) entered the day Sunday trailing the Detroit Pistons for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East by only two games.
Saturday’s collective performance – on the heels of a blowout win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday – was as impressive as any this season for Miami. The Heat shot a season-best 58.5 percent from the field, had six players score in double figures and led by as many as 34 points in the fourth quarter.
Waiters had 21 points, seven assists and made five three-pointers. Dragic had 16 points, four rebounds and eight assists.
Philadelphia (18-32) was without its top two centers in Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, but that didn’t create any level of overconfidence for the Heat. All Whiteside did was feast. He had 17 points and 11 rebounds by the time he finaly went to the bench with 1:31 left in the opening quarter and had 23 points and 13 rebounds by halftime.
“He’s been building and playing very detailed, coherent, multiple-effort basketball really during this whole stretch,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Whiteside. “This is the first time that he’s actually put together the stats that everybody wants to see from him. But, we we’re more encouraged by the last several games of him having rather ordinary stats, but doing everything else at an exceptional level, in terms of making winning plays.
“This time he just put it all together. But he’s been practicing well, he’s been taking steps forward, and it’s not just during this win streak, it’s been during the road trip before that, learning how to impact winning, make multiple efforts. Today, it started out on the offensive glass, making himself available off of dishes. We weren’t running plays for him, but the ball finds energy and he was great tonight.”
Whiteside finished with 30 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks and did it all in only 26 minutes and 47 seconds.
His performance was only the second 30-point, 20-rebound game by any player in the NBA this season (Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins had the other), the ninth overall in Heat history (eighth in the regular season) and the first since Shaquille O’Neal’s had one during the 2006 playoffs against the Chicago Bulls. It was also the sixth time in Whiteside’s career he’s had at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game and the fourth time he’s done it this season, which ties Rony Seikaly for the franchise-record.
“It’s a Barbara Walters special,” Whiteside joked of his 30-20 night. “A little bit longer though.”
Miami led 32-17 after one quarter, but the 76ers didn;t fade. Philadelphia scored 35 points in the second quarter and trimmed what was an 18-point first half Heat lead to as little as 49-44 when Ersan Illyasova hit a three-pointer with 5:16 remaining in the period. But Miami closed the half strong and went into the break ahead 64-52.
The Heat then opened the second half on fire and pulled away for good.
“For us it’s just about just trying to get better,” Waiters said. “We don’t get caught up in [the streak]. We just try to take positive steps forward and just try to get better from it and learn from it. I feel like we still had a couple mental lapses out there. Besides that, just continue to keep working and take each game day by day and just continue to try to get better.”
The Heat will now take its 10-game win streak on the road for four consecutive games beginning Monday night at Minnesota (19-32).
Dragic said there’s no way he and his teammates will take their foots off the gas pedal.
“Spo, he's doing a good job to stay on us everyday, every practice,” Dragic said. “We don't relax. The day before yesterday we had a really, really tough, practice. We call it Hunger Games. We just compete and I think that's the only thing that can help us get better.
“We’re still not in the eighth spot. We’re still not in the playoffs. [This win streak] doesn’t mean nothing. We just have to work harder and get better game by game.”
▪ Rookie Rodney McGruder made his 34th start of the season, played 16 scoreless minutes in the first half and sat out the second half with an illness according to the team.
▪ Spoelstra said Josh Richardson, who hasn’t played since Jan. 8 with a left foot bruise, will travel with Miami on its road trip. Richardson, though, has yet to make his way through a contact practice.
Longest win streaks in Heat history
27 games - Feb. 3 to March 25, 2013
14 games - Dec. 6 to Jan. 1, 2005
12 games - Feb. 26 to March 19, 2005
12 games - Nov. 29 to Dec. 18, 2010
11 games - Jan. 27 to Feb. 20, 1997
10 games - Feb. 13 to March 1, 1998
10 games - Feb. 12 to March 8, 2006
10 games - Nov. 12 to Dec. 1, 2013
10 games - Jan. 17, 2017 to present