When Hassan Whiteside woke up Sunday morning, hours before the first Game 7 of his NBA career, he told his cousin: “I’m going to try to block everything.”
He didn’t exactly block everything Sunday against Charlotte, but he did plenty, swatting away five shots, deterring plenty of others, collecting 10 points and 12 rebounds and leaving his fingerprints all over this game. And unlike some previous games, he did it without getting in foul trouble; he didn’t pick up his first until 1:53 remained in the third quarter.
When it was over, Whiteside had set a franchise record for blocks in a playoff series with 24, topping Alonzo Mourning’s record of 21.
“There’s not too many guys that can do what he does in this league,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.
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Though he was credited with only one block in the first half, Whiteside sensed the Hornets were reluctant to challenge him.
“I think I kind of set the tone: Not today,” he said. “They know I block a lot of shots. All I need is for them to think about me.”
Whiteside averaged only 7.6 shots per game in this series, including eight on Sunday, largely because the Hornets often sent multiple defenders at him. But he made 74.3 percent of those shots in the series and averaged 13.1 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks.
“This is a team that’s going to make it very tough on the center’s position to score, the way they pack the paint,” Whiteside said.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said this series was a good learning experience for Whiteside, not only because of the way the Hornets defended him, but also because he had a tough cover in Al Jefferson.
“There aren’t that many back-to-the-basket centers who have an array of moves,” Spoelstra said. “It was a big challenge for [Whiteside] and he got better as the series went on. I was proud of how he progressed.”
This and that
▪ Tyler Johnson played for the first time since Jan. 26, scoring five points in the game’s final six minutes, and said his surgically-repaired shoulder “felt normal.”
Josh Richardson (who played through a shoulder injury) replaced him in the rotation during Johnson’s absence and Richardson “has earned” for that role to continue, Johnson said. “He became a big-time contributor for the team. I understand I’m not going to be able to jump right back in where I was before I got hurt.”
▪ A boy was charged with trespassing and ejected from the game after running on the court during a stoppage in the fourth quarter. The youngster hugged Justise Winslow’s leg. “I was surprised,” Winslow said. “He gave me a little hug, a little tap on the shoulder. I don’t know where he went. It was cool.”
▪ The Heat set a postseason record with a 22-rebound advantage. Miami’s 58 rebounds were also a franchise playoff record.
▪ Dwyane Wade moved past Wilt Chamberlain into 17th on the NBA’s all-time postseason scoring list, with 3,614 points.
▪ Sunday was the 122nd postseason Game 7 in NBA history and the home team has won 98 times (80.3 percent).
▪ ESPN reported the Heat complained “to the highest levels of the league office” after Game 4 because of what Miami deemed to be favorable officiating with Hornets guard Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin.
“If you want to go through the reports where they categorize missed calls, the Heat don’t have anything to complain about, nor do we,” Clifford said before Game 7.