Heat Check: Whiteside powers Miami at both ends of the court

In minutes, the Los Angeles Clippers had raced out to a 19-8 lead with Chris Paul and J.J. Redick scoring all but two of their points. But that’s when reserve big man Hassan Whiteside checked in midway through the first quarter and helped turn the game around for an impressive 104-90 victory.

As in all of the Heat’s victories this season, a team effort was needed to secure the victory. Chris Bosh led all scorers with 34 points on a variety of jumpers and post-up moves while Dwyane Wade struggled with his shot but still found ways to contribute with 10 assists to go along with his 17 points.

This game ultimately was decided by Whiteside’s dominant play, which was evident with each minute he played on the floor. In his very first minute of action, he stole the ball at mid-court, finished at the rim on a fastbreak opportunity, grabbed a defensive rebound and then drew a foul for two free throws. His impact was immediate and decisive, with a double-double by halftime with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Clippers never truly rebounded from the Heat’s initial response to their hot start. Blake Griffin (26 points, six rebounds), Paul (23 points, nine assists), and Redick (14 points) were the only players to reach double-digits in scoring and their bench didn’t give them much help.

Whiteside started the third quarter amid concerns of a Heat letdown, which never materialized with the big man helping to control the pace of the game and the Clippers failing to kickstart any significant run to take the lead back.

With a strong performance on both ends of the floor, the Heat made enough plays down the stretch while limiting the Clippers to just 14 fourth quarter points to lock up an important win during their road trip. Whiteside’s emergence has quickly become the Heat’s brightest spot through a difficult patch of the season.

THE TURNING POINT

Miami’s 32-10 run beginning midway through the first quarter after Whiteside checked into the game changed everything. The Heat would not surrender the lead for the rest of the game.

Heat 104, Clippers 90

THE DIFFERENCE MAKER

No question about it, Whiteside’s best ever performance of his career powered the Heat on both ends of the court. His athleticism and activity around the rim cancelled out the Clippers’ advantage in the frontcourt and frustrated DeAndre Jordan and Griffin the entire game. He brought rebounding, blocks and some much-needed toughness inside.

On offense, he showed good hands and a soft touch around the rim. He finished with career-highs of 23 points on 10-13 field goal shooting and 16 rebounds in 29 minutes.

STAT OF THE GAME

Though last in the league in rebounds, Miami outrebounded the bigger Clippers 46-27 by a wide margin to control the boards and limit second-chance points.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Heat stay in Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Tuesday at 10:30 p.m.

You can follow Surya Fernandez on Twitter @SuryaHeatNBA or email him at SuryaFoxSports@gmail.com.