It started out about Chris Bosh’s return to the arena for the first time since his medical scare. It ended with Hassan Whiteside getting kicked out of another game.
On a night dedicated to Bosh and buoyed by the good news that the Heat’s perennial All-Star might hopefully be cleared to begin working out next month, the Heat’s new standout big man, Whiteside, was ejected for the second time in his past five games.
With Whiteside gone again, Dwyane Wade gave an inspired effort, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Despite Wade’s 34 points, the Heat lost to the Boston Celtics 100-90 on Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Wade was asked if he was disappointed that Whiteside was ejected.
“Very,” Wade said. “We all are.”
The Heat trailed 66-58 with 2:45 left in the game when Whiteside maliciously blindsided Celtics center Kelly Olynyk in the back under Boston’s basket. Officials reviewed the play at midcourt while Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard stood over Whiteside on the Heat’s bench. Whiteside’s foul was upgraded to a Flagrant-2, which eliminated him from the game.
Whiteside left the court with a member of Heat security, who then returned to the court shortly afterward and appeared to request Udonis Haslem. Haslem left the court and returned after about a minute. Whiteside left the arena before media availability after the game, according to a Heat spokesman, who added that the Heat’s volatile midseason acquisition would address his ejection after practice Tuesday.
“We’ll handle it, and it will be corrected,” Spoelstra said after the game. “Everybody is responsible to the team, and your actions, there are consequences that do affect the team.”
Either the Heat or the NBA could suspend Whiteside for the cheap shot on the Celtics’ Olynyk. It was just last week that Whiteside was ejected for tackling Phoenix Suns center Alex Len.
Whiteside also had problems controlling his emotions during the Heat’s loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday. Spoelstra limited Whiteside’s minutes after a first-quarter interaction between coach and player. Spoelstra appeared to bench Whiteside, who then sulked at the end of the bench for much of the game.
There is a very real possibility that Whiteside’s outbursts could prevent the Heat (28-35) from making the playoffs. The Heat stayed in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings with the loss to Boston, which is also in the thick of the East playoff race. The Heat’s loss on Monday coincided with the Charlotte Hornets’ loss to the Wizards.
Miami now trails Charlotte by half a game for the eighth and final playoff spot. Boston is 10th in the standings, and only trails the Heat by one in the loss column.
Asked whether he was concerned about Whiteside’s ejections and inconsistent play hurting the Heat’s chances of making the postseason, Spoelstra noted that winning at home is the most important factor, regardless of who is in the game. The Heat is 13-18 at home.
“Regardless of who’s in and who’s out, we just have to find a way to grind these games and find a way to win in the end,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the way this season has been, so there really is no excuses.”
With point guard Goran Dragic and Haslem out with injuries, the Heat used its 25th different starting lineup.
Henry Walker started at small forward, and Luol Deng played power forward. Led by Wade, the Heat rallied in the fourth quarter to within three points of the Celtics’ lead. Wade’s three-pointer cut Boston’s advantage to 81-78, but the Heat never got any closer.
Michael Beasley finished with 14 points off the bench, and Mario Chalmers, starting for Dragic, had 12 points. Spoelstra said Dragic was scratched from the lineup before the game because he didn’t have full mobility in his back. Dragic fell on his tailbone against the Wizards.
Beasley offered a thoughtful perspective about Whiteside’s erratic behavior in games.
“Ask Dwyane Wade about me in 2008,” Beasley said. “I was the culprit. It’s definitely tough because we need him. We all go through emotions, we all go through ups and downs, and we all get mad. It’s just he needs to learn how to control them because we definitely need him on the floor.”
For the second game in a row, Spoelstra featured a rotation with Beasley at center. The ultra-small lineup included guards Wade, Chalmers and Tyler Johnson and Walker.
“He’s been terrific with his approach, his work and he’s produced,” Spoelstra said of Beasley. “This has been a season of a lot of moving parts but we have a lot of sweat equity and a lot of time invested in Michael over the years. It’s comforting to have a familiar face, and that you’ve developed someone who is familiar with our culture, our system and things of that nature. He’s been a big plus to have around.”