Barry Jackson

Heat says Waiters might return Monday; Wizards standouts explain why Heat is dangerous

adiaz@miamiherald.com

The Heat needs some external help to make the playoffs.

But Miami also could be getting some internal help.

Guard Dion Waiters, who has missed 11 games with an ankle injury, has been upgraded to questionable for Monday’s game against Cleveland.

Heat players have spoken about how they miss Waiters in several ways, especially his ability to penetrate and create open shots for others.

Waiters didn’t travel on the Heat’s 2-1 road trip, which concluded with Saturday’s win at Washington. The Heat did not practice Sunday, meaning Waiters’ first practice with the team in a few weeks would be Monday morning’s shootaround.

The Heat is 27-19 when Waiters plays and 12-22 when he doesn’t. He has averaged 15.8 points and 4.3 assists in 46 games this season.

• The Heat also listed Josh McRoberts and Luke Babbitt as questionable for Monday.

Babbitt has missed three games with a hip flexor, and McRoberts (foot) has been out since December.

• The Heat is 3-0 against Washington, which visits AmericanAirlines in the regular-season finale for both teams on Wednesday. And the Wizards’ standout starting guards tried to explain why.

"Your guess is as good as mine because they definitely got our number," Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. "We got to play them again. They are fighting and clawing. Every time we have played them they’ve been the aggressor."

Wizards guard John Wall, who committed eight turnovers in Miami’s 106-103 win on Saturday, cited something else, too:

"They are a good defensive team and they play hard," Wall said. "When you get leads against those guys, they don’t tend to quit. That’s how their team is programmed. They do a great job of shooting the ball, driving.

"They just put us in tough binds, helping with Hassan Whiteside on pick and roll, and they have a lot of shooters outside than can help. Whiteside does a great job of taking away passes that you try to find to your big man and find to the shooters. Give those guys a lot of credit."

• Whiteside, after being held scoreless in the previous two first halves, scored 16 of his 30 in the first half against Washington and said he is very conscious now of getting off to a good start.

"I thought about it," he said, determined to avoid early foul trouble. "I had to tone it down a little bit to make sure I could be out there as long as I can."

He said it helped having "a little less wrap" on his right hand, which was injured 2 ½ weeks ago and still has 13 stitches.

Whiteside, incidentally, now has four games of at least 30 points and 10 rebounds this season, the highest single-season total for a Heat player since LeBron James had six in the 2012-13 season.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said before Whiteside blocked Bradley Beal’s potential game-tying three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left, "he was asking how we were going to defend something and we have about five seconds to figure it out on a pick and roll and I just said, ‘Hey you’ve got to be the defensive player of the year and make a play’ and he knew exactly what I was talking about….

"He and I are starting to get more connected each week, each month, each year. We were strangers, not stealing his line, but it is true…. Throughout everything, we’ve now developed a stronger bond."

James Johnson, incidentally, nicknamed Whiteside "Darkside" when Johnson arrived here - a Star Wars reference.

Of Whiteside switching to defend Beal, Johnson said: "Anytime that Darkside does anything like that, we are not worried or pressed to go help him. He is one of the best defensive players in the NBA, if not the best defensive player."

 
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