Barry Jackson

Heat guard expecting playoffs; how injured Whiteside played after 2015 hand laceration

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside reacts after a play during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tues., March 21, 2017.
Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside reacts after a play during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tues., March 21, 2017.

A six-pack of Heat notes on a Wednesday:

• How confident are these Heat players? When I asked Tyler Johnson on Monday if missing the playoffs (should that happen) be more painful because of all the effort it took to climb out of an 11-30 hole, he said:

“Nah, because we're going to make it so it's not going to be a thing for us. It's not going to be something we have to think about. I just know our team and I know how our guys are going to respond. You put a bunch of pit bulls in this situation, you know the outcome. Nobody thought we would even be in position to make the playoffs at 11-30. If we're battling back from a deficit like that, we can battle back from half a game back.”

• Milwaukee is doing the Heat no favors, having inexplicably now won 13 of 19 after losing second-leading scorer Jabari Parker and his 19.2 points per game.

By winning at Portland on Tuesday, the Bucks (35-35) remained in seventh in the East, one-half game ahead of the 35-36 Heat, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot.

Detroit (34-37) is in seventh and Chicago (33-38) is in eighth.

But the Heat is just 1.5 games behind No. 6 Indiana (36-34) and 2.5 games behind No. 5 Atlanta (37-33).

• The Heat is expected to update Hassan Whiteside’s status after Wednesday’s early afternoon practice, with Whiteside’s availability this week very much in jeopardy after 13 stitches were required to close a gash between the middle and ring fingers of his right hand, an injury that happened when he sliced his hand against the backboard as he attempted to block a shot by Suns power forward Marquese Chriss with 2:08 left in Miami’s 112-97 win.

Erik Spoelstra actually had been ready to take Whiteside out of the game before that - Willie Reed was at the scorer’s table - but there was no natural stoppage in play to do that.

Here’s something to keep in mind: The last time Whiteside had a laceration on his right hand, almost exactly two years ago, he missed three games, came back to play three, missed another game (because of a hand laceration), then played in four in a row before sitting out with other starters in the regular-season finale (which didn’t affect Miami’s playoff chances).

In his first three games after the laceration, Whiteside shot well from the field (5 for 7, 8 for 11, 5 for 9), and his numbers were OK (10 points, 6 rebounds and two blocks against the Spurs, then 17 points, 8 rebounds against Cleveland and 13 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks against Detroit). Miami lost all three games.

After then sitting out one game against Indiana because of the hand (his fourth overall missed game because of the injury), he played well when he returned: 12 points, 8 rebounds against Charlotte; 19 and 16 against Chicago; 16 and 18 against Toronto and 24 and 13 against Orlando.

Incidentally, Whiteside required 10 stitches on that March 2015 right hand laceration - three fewer than he needed last night, according to the Heat. That 2015 injury, sustained when he hit his hand on the rim when trying to block a shot against Milwaukee, was also between his middle and ring fingers.

• The Heat achieved this rare feat in Tuesday’s 112-97 win against Phoenix, per Elias: Four players came off the bench to score at least 10 points: Tyler Johnson (17 points), Reed (12), Wayne Ellington (11) and James Johnson (10). It’s only the second time in Heat history that the franchise had four non-starters each score at least 10 points in a victory.

It also happened on Valentine’s Day in 1991 when Alec Kessler (21 points), Kevin Edwards (21), Willie Burton (17) and Bimbo Coles (12) did it in a win over the Nuggets.

• Though two teams have rallied from 19 games under .500 (like the Heat) to make the playoffs in the past 30 years, no team has ever gotten back to .500 after being 19 under, as Heat TV voice Eric Reid has noted. The Heat can do that by beating Toronto on Thursday.

• When the Raptors visit AmericanAirlines Arena on Thursday, Toronto figures to be without Serge Ibaka, who was ejected Tuesday after exchanging punches with Chicago’s Robin Lopez. An Ibaka suspension would leave the Raptors’ frontcourt shorthanded against Miami on Thursday. The Raptors also remain without injured point guard Kyle Lowry.

Please click here for UM football post from this morning, on an area where UM could be at its best for a decade and a multi-interest conundrum involving one of the Canes’ most highly-recruiting players.

Please click here for my Dolphins post from this morning on Mel Kiper’s new pick for Miami and why I’m irked about the Dolphins’ Zach Brown negotiations.

... And please follow me on Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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