Outside of when Dwyane Wade is running the two-man game with him, Hassan Whiteside doesn’t really have many scripted plays designed for him in the Heat’s offense.
He usually feeds off rebounds or whenever the ball sort of just finds its way to him in the paint for dunks and put backs. On Friday night, though, with Dwyane Wade a late scratch from the starting lineup with flu-like symptoms, the ball got into Whiteside’s hands plenty early.
And he delivered.
Whiteside scored 18 of his season-high 25 points and grabbed 13 of his season-high 19 rebounds in the first half as the Heat kicked off 2016 with its biggest blowout win of the season, a 106-82 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“Hassan went in his own bag,” said Wade, who came off the bench with 7:46 left in the first half after he spent the first quarter with an IV in his arm to treat what he said was dehydration. “We didn’t know he had one. He gave us everything [Friday night] — the step-back jumper, free-throw jumper.
“Obviously, the biggest thing was he controlled the glass early. When they were missing, he didn’t give them second-chance opportunities so they could get their rhythm. That was huge.”
Five players finished in double figures for the Heat, which shot 56.1 percent. Gerald Green had 19 points off the bench, Chris Bosh had 16 points and seven rebounds, and Goran Dragic had 15 points and seven assists.
Wade missed only his second start of the season but finished with 10 points and seven assists in nearly 19 minutes of action. He found Whiteside for three of his five assists before the half, including an alley-oop slam with five seconds left in the quarter.
“Hassan was a force in the paint,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He was just so aggressive. Look, this offense is going to happen in layers. What we’re trying to develop is a team that shares the game and understands how each guy can help and be aggressive, help the team. But also share it with the next guy.
“It will take some time. It took a little bit of time to get Goran aggressive and to understand when, which points of the game. That’s a layer we want to start developing [with Hassan]. As the ball moves, he’s a tremendous pick-and-roll threat, particularly with Dwyane at the rim with the lob threat. But as the ball moves and you get to the end of offense, he’s a great threat with one foot in the paint. You throw it to him, he’ll score at a very high level there. Our offense isn’t necessarily where we want it to be yet. But I love where it’s going, where it was three weeks ago, we’re much further along.”
The Mavericks, who crushed the Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors 114-91 on Wednesday in Dallas, shot the ball like they spent New Year’s Eve partying on South Beach all night.
Dallas (19-14) missed 23 of its first 28 shots, 42 of 55 from outside the paint (23.6 percent) and shot 36.4 percent for the game. Future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki, who gave the Heat nightmares in the 2011 NBA Finals, finished 4 of 14 from the field for 11 points and three rebounds in 27 minutes.
But the story, really, was Whiteside early. With Friday’s performance, he became the first Heat player since Shaquille O’Neal to have at least 25 points and 15 rebounds in multiple games.
After Bosh went to the bench in his usual spot midway through the first quarter, Whiteside went to work. On back-to-back possessions, the Heat’s 7-foot center buried 15-foot and 18-foot jumpers to give Miami its first double-digit lead of the game. Later in the half, he buried another 17-footer.
Hitting jump shots really isn’t Whiteside’s thing. He came into the game Friday 25 of 66 on jumpers (37.9 percent) and shooting only 29 percent (9 of 31) from 10 feet or more this season.
“Contrary to belief, I can score,” Whiteside said with a grin afterward. “[Friday] was one of them days where I kind of got the ball a lot more, and I took advantage of that.”
▪ Rookie Justise Winslow missed his third consecutive game with a sore left ankle. Winslow warmed up pregame with the intent to play but about 10 minutes before tipoff the Heat announced Winslow would not be playing. Spoelstra said Winslow “wasn’t exploding” the way he usually does.
▪ Chris “Birdman” Anderson got into Friday’s game for the Heat late. He finished with a rebound and two missed shots in three minutes. It was his first action since Nov. 25. He has played in only four games this season.