Hassan Whiteside spent the summer dialing NBA teams seeking a tryout. No was always the response until he heard yes from Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.
Whiteside proved his worth with career highs of 23 points and 16 rebounds in the Heat’s 104-90 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
"It means a lot," Whiteside said. "It’s crazy that I’m on a team called the Heat because there’s always been a flame inside me. I always try to come in and just play as hard as I can and keep proving people wrong."
Chris Bosh scored 34 points and Dwyane Wade had 17 points on 5-of-15 shooting and 10 assists to help the Heat end a three-game road skid..
Whiteside signed with the Heat as a free agent around Thanksgiving and has played four games in the D-League this season. The Clippers were among the teams that turned down his workout request.
"We didn’t look at him before, me and 29 other teams," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "He’s playing terrific."
They had no answer for the 7-foot Whiteside in his third year out of Marshall. His offensive display ran the gamut from tip-ins to dunks to jumpers. About the only thing Whiteside didn’t do was try a 3-pointer. He was 10 of 13 from the field and 3 of 4 from the line in 28 minutes.
"He changed shots down low on defense and got us offensive rebounds, putbacks, dunks, layups, and did a really good job of controlling the paint," Bosh said.
Blake Griffin scored 26 points and Chris Paul had 23 points and nine assists for the Clippers. They had won two straight and six of their previous eight.
Paul, Matt Barnes, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford were whistled for technical fouls and the team spent much of the game barking at the referees.
The Clippers took a 19-6 lead, helped by 3-pointers from J.J. Redick, who finished with 14 points, and two by Paul. From there, it was all Miami.
"That’s the thing that is so frustrating," Griffin said. "We started the game well and just didn’t do a good job after that."
Whiteside replaced Chris Andersen halfway through the first and propelled the Heat on a 24-10 spurt, including 13 in a row when Jordan and Paul earned technicals, to give Miami a 30-29 lead. Whiteside was 5 of 6 from the floor and had six rebounds in 6 minutes in the quarter.
"We gave him too many easy buckets right at the glass," Griffin said. "He played extremely well. His efficiency was great. He was the biggest difference in the this game."
Miami ran off the first eight points of the second quarter, extending its lead to 38-29. A pair of free throws by Andersen completed a 25-point swing for the Heat, having gone from 13 down in the first to up 12 in the second.
"I was also scanning the court to see if I can find my guys open shots," Wade said. "We were able to get the shots we wanted, not turn the ball over and that made us focus more on defense."
The Clippers got no closer than six before the Heat scored six straight to lead by 12 again before Redick’s 3-pointer left Los Angeles trailing 62-53 at the break. Led by Whiteside’s 10 rebounds, Miami owned a 25-11 edge on the boards, including 16-8 on the defensive glass.
"He’s been a game changer ever since he put on a Heat jersey," Wade said. "We needed that. We’ve been looking for that big guy for a while."
The Heat stretched its lead to 15 — largest of the game — in the third during a 9-0 run in which Whiteside hit a turnaround hook from 11 feet. On the defensive end, he blocked Griffin. Whiteside played most of the fourth, when he earned his fifth foul.
The Clippers got within seven with 2 minutes left only to watch Bosh hit a 3-pointer and keep the Heat ahead 100-90 as Miami fans chanted, "Let’s go Heat!" In the game, the Heat controlled the boards, 46-27.
"It gave them too many bullets," Griffin said.
Heat: The official scorer took one of Whiteside’s rebounds away and give it to Wade. … The Heat record for rebounds by a bench player is 19 by Jamaal Magilore at Toronto on April 13, 2011. … Whiteside’s previous highs were 14 points and 10 rebounds. … Bosh equaled his season high in points. … The Heat split the season series 1-1. … They improved to 5-9 against the West.
Clippers: They shot 57 percent in the opening quarter. … They went 6-3 on their nine-game homestand that began on Christmas Day, the longest such stand in franchise history and longest in the NBA this season. "We were hoping to be a lot better," Paul said.
STAYING THE COURSE
The Clippers are known for their fast starts, so being down 13 points right away was no surprise for Miami.
"We had to get set into our defense, make a few adjustments, be a little smarter, and offensively just continue running our stuff," Wade said. "We got back in it pretty fast, and from there we played a helluva game. No matter what shots were made or not made, we just kept playing this game."
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I almost tore my rotator cuff trying to get our guys to go." — Rivers.