Miami Heat

Hassan Whiteside on pace to lead block party

Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside blocks the shot of New York Knicks' Robin Lopez during the first quarter on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside blocks the shot of New York Knicks' Robin Lopez during the first quarter on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. TNS

Need some perspective on what Hassan Whiteside’s shot swatting?

How about this: Not even Alonzo Mourning, the premier interior defender in Heat history, came close to what the Heat’s 26-year-old center is doing.

Mourning holds the Heat’s record for most blocks in a season (294 in 1999-2000) and most blocks per game in a season (3.9 in the strike-shortened season of 1998-99).

Whiteside, after six more Friday, has 72 in 15 games this season, or 4.8 per game.

That projects to 394 for the season if Whiteside can play in every game, a full 100 more than Mourning ever accrued. And he may end up with more, considering that he hasn’t had fewer than three blocks in any of his past dozen games.

In his best blocks season, Mourning had fewer than three blocks in 30 of the 79 games he played. Whiteside has had fewer than three in just two of 15, and he had two in both of those, while Mourning had fewer than two in 15 different games.

Naturally, this is having a dramatic effect on Miami’s defense.

The Heat is holding opponents to 40.3 percent shooting, best in the league, but it’s actually 42.8 percent on shots Whiteside doesn’t block. Although you can’t assume that all of those shots would be made, which would push opponents’ percentage up to 46.0, it’s safe to say that more than half would be, since they tend to come near the rim. And even half would raise the rate to 43.2 percent.

Then there’s this: in Shaquille O’Neal's 172-game stint with the Heat, he had 320 blocks. At his current pace, Whiteside might get that by March.

What does Whiteside think of his block rate?


East a beast

No one needs to tell Goran Dragic how rough the West has been.

Two seasons back, he made third-team All-NBA for a Phoenix squad that won 48 games — about three times as many pundits projected, and still missed the postseason by one game. Then, last season, even amid tumult, Phoenix won 39 games, which would have been eighth in the East, but was 10th in the West.

But, after more than 15 years of regular season West dominance, dating back to the 1998-99 lockout season, there seems to have been a shift. While the West has the teams with the two top records (the Warriors and Spurs) entering Saturday’s play, there were actually more teams at .500 or better in the East (10) than in the West (8).

That includes Miami’s Monday opponent, the Boston Celtics, 9-7 prior to Sunday’s game in Orlando.

“Everybody has been saying to me, ‘Oh, it’s much easier in the East,’” Dragic said.

“I don't agree with that. Now you’ve got like Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, Indiana, Boston is coming up, New York is playing well, Milwaukee. So you’ve got like, what, nine, 10 teams in the mix, same as in the West. And, you know, that’s good. Because every night you need to bring your A game, you need to compete with these guys.”

Dragic laughed when asked why the West has been better. He noted the different, faster style, but then added, “That’s a good question that I cannot answer.”

Warming trend

Chris Bosh scored 20 points in Friday’s 97-78 win against the Knicks.

That wasn’t especially unusual — it was his seventh 20-point game of the season. Nor was the way he got it. Once again, Bosh’s scoring picked up as the game proceeded.

With just two points, on two free throws, in his first run on the court, his first quarter scoring average dipped to 2.9 points, fifth among the Heat’s starters. Some of this is a result of Spoelstra’s rotations — Bosh’s 7.6 minutes are also fifth among starters in the first quarter. But it’s also clear that Bosh is not getting established early as often as others, with Whiteside leading with 4.9 points in 8.9 minutes.

Bosh is playing 7.7 minutes in the second quarter, many with the second unit, and leading the Heat with 5.5 points, just ahead of Dwyane Wade (5.4). Bosh is sixth in the third quarter, and fifth among starters, with 3.1 points in 8.1 minutes, as Wade leads with 5.5 points in 8.5 minutes. But then Bosh has been, by far, the most productive option in the fourth, with 6 points in 8.9 minutes, and no one else averaging more than 3.8 points.