Knee soreness kept Hassan Whiteside out of the Miami’s Heat lineup the first go-around against Golden State.
It’s hard to imagine anything other than being struck by a freight train would keep the 7-foot, 265-pound center from playing in Wednesday night’s rematch at AmericanAirlines Arena.
He has a score to settle with Draymond Green. Well, a Twitter feud to be exact.
“He basically said he’s got more money than me and that I play in the D-League,” Whiteside said Tuesday of his war of words from last August with the 6-7, 230-pound power forward over small ball and whether it would work against a traditional center.
“I just said, ‘Small ball only works when you’ve only got big guys that don’t score.’ I wasn’t even talking about him. Then fans starting [sending him those Twitter messages] saying, ‘Hassan is talking about you.’ He was like, ‘Can you score?’ I was like, ‘If you guard me you’ll find out.’ [Then he said], ‘I got $80 million reasons to flop. The D-League is not one.’ I don’t know what the money has to do with it. But I guess, OK.”
Whiteside, 26, and Green, 25, deleted those tweets long ago. But the exchange still obviously means something to Whiteside — and fans who have kept the talk going — and will be one of the more interesting subplots when the 50-5 defending NBA champions take the court Wednesday.
Golden State beat the Heat 111-103 on Jan. 11, but Miami (32-24) trailed by only three points entering the fourth quarter and by only six with 2:35 to play. The Warriors, the best scoring and three-point-shooting team in the league, struggled from beyond the arc, making only 7 of 23 attempts.
“To be fair, I thought they missed some threes that they typically make,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra noted Tuesday. “They’re such a unique, unorthodox team in the manner that the three-point shots they take — for 90 percent of the league — they’re not good shots. For them, they are.
“They’re playing exquisite basketball right now and they’ve been able to do it and sustain it the whole season. The way they shoot the ball, they’re in their own category.”
He basically said he’s got more money than me and that I play in the D-League.
The Warriors — chasing Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Bulls for the NBA record of 72 wins — behind league MVP Steph Curry, three-point master Klay Thompson and the do-it-all Green haven’t changed since the Heat last saw them. Dwyane Wade, who led Miami with 20 points and 11 assists in that loss, said Tuesday it will take a near-perfect game to beat them.
But this Heat team — playing without captain and leading scorer Chris Bosh — is different than the one the Warriors last saw.
Spoelstra has essentially stopped running plays for three-point shooters (Miami ranked next-to-last in scoring and 28th in three-point shooting before the All-Star break) and keeping his small forwards and power forwards out on the wings.
Behind point guard Goran Dragic, Miami — 3-0 since the All-Star break — has turned into a fast-paced, uptempo team that relies heavily on Dragic, Luol Deng and Justise Winslow to cut and drive to the basket, and for Whiteside to lead the charge in winning the rebounding battle and keeping opponents out of the paint.
Before the All-Star break, the Heat was 14-15 against teams slated to make the playoffs and 3-8 against the six best teams in the league. After a blowout loss to the Spurs before the break, Wade and Bosh said they didn’t think the Heat was ready to play with the league elite just yet.
Is the Heat ready to take down one of the league’s best teams now?
“I don’t know,” Wade said. “We have a totally different team than we had at that time. That was about two weeks ago.”
There’s no doubt, though, Wade’s teammates believe they can.
“I’m happy where our mindset is,” said Deng, who after resetting a dislocated middle finger on his shooting hand in Monday’s overtime win against the Pacers will play Wednesday night with splint. “It’s going to be a tough game. But at the same time we’re looking forward to the competition. We’re going to play with a lot of energy and be positive.”
Winslow, who finished with a Heat season-high plus-29 in Monday’s win, said one thing the Heat learned on its West Coast trip was that the Warriors “are beatable.”
“No one in this locker room is intimidated by them,” he said. “I mean, we respect them. In the end, it’s all about earning respect, giving it. But no one is intimidated.”
Certainly not Whiteside. He wants to prove an old-school center can still have a big impact on a game and dominate teams that revert to small ball.
“It’s going to be real interesting,” Whiteside said. “I hope they don’t play [7-foot center Andrew] Bogut as much. I would love to get after some of the smaller guys.”
Wednesday: Warriors at Heat
When, where: 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami.
TV, radio: Fox Sports Sun; WAXY (790), WAQI (710, Spanish).
Series: Tied 27-27.
Scouting report: Tyler Johnson and Chris Bosh have been ruled out, as has Beno Udrih, who was lost for the season. Miami is 20-1 when it holds opponents to shooting percentages of 41 percent or lower. The Warriors have only done that six times this season and are 2-4 in those games.