Heat Check

Handling 7-footers may be a new role for Heat’s Justise Winslow

If Hassan Whiteside is out against the Bulls, will Justise Winslow find himself tasked with shutting down another 7-footer....maybe even two?

Winslow did a brilliant job on Friday night guarding 7-foot Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns during the Heat’s 109-97 victory.

Towns was held scoreless in the first half and scored only two points over the first three quarters, while shooting 1 of 9 from the field thanks largely to some great defense by the 6-7 Winslow, who started again at power forward and played 21 minutes and three seconds.

Towns finished with 18 points, but scored 16 of those in the fourth quarter and grabbed seven rebounds in the final period with the outcome pretty much decided.

The Timberwolves were outscored by 18 when Towns was in the game.

"I mean kind of our post defense is try not to let the guy touch the ball, so just run him hard, try to make it hard for him to get touches,” Winslow told reporters after the game on Friday. “I think he got a little frustrated early in the game, he wasn't getting the rhythm baskets he's used to or even just the rhythm catches. So we just make it tough on him. I think by the second half, he was kind of trying to force things. We just didn't give him any easy looks, nothing easy. Toward the end of the game, he started getting a little going. But just trying to make it tough on him.”

Winslow, who said he found out just before the game of his defensive assignment, said he was a little surprised the T’Wolves didn’t try to post up Towns and use his marked height advantage more.

“I thought they were going to go to a little bit more, but I think we did a pretty good job of not letting them get any easy touches and they kind of went away from it because it was hard for them to get him the ball,” Winslow told reporters postgame.

Winslow guarding Towns allowed Whiteside to defend Taj Gibson, who was held to just eight points.

The Bulls, despite owning the NBA’s worst record at 3-14, feature a pair of 7-footers in Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez, which presents a different challenge but one Spoelstra has confidence Winslow would be ready to take on.

“I think that showed some of the versatility that we love so much about Justise,” Spoelstra said. “I feel very confident playing him against 4’s or 5’s or 3’s, or 2’s or 1’s. He’s very studious, competitive and not afraid of taking on a challenge where he could potentially get embarrassed. So those things tend to play well for us. We were planning on playing Hassan on [Towns] at some point but we were able to play really Justise, JJ [James Johnson] and KO [Kelly Olynyk] the majority of the minutes on Towns last night.”