Whiteside gets 3 stitches over left eye, enjoys blowout of Sixers
Consider whatever happened in the final four minutes and 39 seconds of Monday night’s loss in Dallas a distant memory.
Two nights after the Mavericks went on a 12-0 run down the stretch to beat Miami and put an end to the franchise’s record run of 16 consecutive games with at least 100 points, the Heat got back to lighting up the scoreboard Wednesday with a 125-98 thumping of the Philadelphia 76ers at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Winners for the 17th time in its past 20 games, the Heat shot 54.4 percent, made 13 three-pointers and scored 58 points in the paint en route to its biggest blowout of the season. More importantly, they made their coach happy with how they shared the basketball.
“Certainly every team would love to play with that kind of balance,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who watched Tyler Johnson lead six double-figure scorers with 24 points in 28 minutes off the bench.
“The tough thing is to get your team to play selflessly. Our guys understand that our strength is in numbers and it could be different guys on different nights. You have to be emotionally stable enough and mature enough to handle that. But our guys have shown that maturity. We’ve seen that we’re a better team when more guys are involved when the ball is moving and when you don’t care who scores.”
With Wednesday’s win, Miami (28-33) moved back to within a game of the Detroit Pistons (29-32) for the eighth, and final, playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and improved to 15-14 at home, the first time this season the team has had a winning record on its own floor.
The Heat also exacted some revenge on the Sixers, who put an end to Miami’s season-long, 13-game winning streak on Feb. 11.
“I remember when they stopped our streak — they were over there having a parade,” said Hassan Whiteside, who had 15 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and four blocks in only 22 minutes and seven seconds worth of action. “We remember that. We remember them dancing. We remember all that. We had to come out and play Miami Heat basketball.”
Whiteside, Dion Waiters (15 points, four rebounds, two assists) and Goran Dragic (15 points, two rebounds, two assists) didn’t play a second in the fourth quarter.
“I had half my starters looking at me to go back in there,” Spoelstra said. “That’s definitely not what we’re building, to go back in there to get some stats. We haven’t been in this situation too many times. But to be able to close that out and keep a 20-point lead and keep some of those guys fresh, we’ll definitely take that.”
Wayne Ellington handled things just fine, making five of his six three-pointers in the final period en route to 18 points.
“We have so many weapons that we’re very hard to guard,” Ellington said. “I keep saying it, but one night it could be Tyler, one night it’s Dion, one night it’s Goran, the next night it’s Hassan, the next night it’s [James Johnson]. We have a lot of weapons, so it’s hard to take everything away.”
Though the Sixers (22-38) scored 58 points in the paint, Philadelphia shot 43.5 percent for the game and turned it over 19 times, leading directly to 18 Heat points.
“That is not who we are,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “I give the Miami heat a lot of credit. They exposed us individually and showed our inability to guard them.”
▪ Rodney McGruder, who has started 43 games for Miami, left the game for good 2:14 to play in the third quarter with a bruised left quad. But McGruder wasn’t too worried about it afterward.
“Getting back on defense I bumped into JJ,” McGruder said. “I got hit in between the knee and the hip — in the quad almost.
“It’s not bad at all. It just got a little stiff during the game. I will get treatment. We have the greatest training staff in the league. I’ll be fine.”
Whiteside, meanwhile, required three stitches over his left eye after he was hit going up for a rebound.
“They're messing up my sexy right now,” the Heat’s $98 million center said. “This is the third time I’ve needed three stitches. It’s always three.”
▪ With Wednesday’s victory, Spoelstra has tied Tommy Heinsohn for 40th place on the NBA’s all-time wins list (427). Spoelstra needs three more victories to tie Jeff Van Gundy and Larry Costello for 38th place.
Spoelstra was named the Eastern Conference’s Coach of the Month for February.