Preview: Heat jockeying for playoff positioning against Knicks
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 7 p.m.
Two wins over the Atlanta Hawks seemed to ease any frustration felt by Hassan Whiteside over playing time.
Whiteside calmed down in those wins by producing and then downplayed his anger.
Now Whiteside and the Heat attempt to get another win Friday night when they visit the New York Knicks.
Whiteside’s frustration with coach Erik Spoelstra’s strategy boiled over after Saturday’s 110-109 overtime home loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Whiteside played 20 minutes before he was rendered to the bench in the fourth quarter and overtime, and hardly shy during his expletive-filled postgame comments.
“Man, it’s annoying,” Whiteside told reporters after the game, which was his second game back from missing nine contests with a hip injury. “Why we matching up? We got one of the best centers in the league. Why we matching up? A lot of teams don’t have a good center. They’re going to use their strength.”
Whiteside calmed down two days later, and the Heat subsequently reeled off two more wins to clinch a postseason berth. Whiteside totaled 18 and 12 rebounds in Tuesday’s 101-98 home win over Atlanta and then grabbed 13 rebounds in Wednesday’s 115-96 rout at Atlanta.
“I was just frustrated, man,” Whiteside said. “I was frustrated that we lost. I really wanted to get that game. I could have handled it different. But I got so caught up in wanting to get that win. I get real competitive. I really want to be out there. But I just trust coach’s decision.”
The Heat handed New York a 119-98 loss in Miami on March 21 and things aren’t much better for the Knicks, who are finishing off their fourth straight 50-loss season.
New York might be without Enes Kanter, who totaled 23 and 13 rebounds in the last meeting. He has been held out for two games because of back and wrist injuries and his status is questionable.
Though not his desire.
“It doesn’t matter if we have one or two games left, 10 games left or whatever, you still want to go out there and fight with your teammates and battle with your teammates,” Kanter told reporters Thursday. “It would be really selfish to think about opting in our opting out or thinking about my contract and not playing, giving up on my teammates and my team, it would be really selfish. For me, the Knicks are still paying me, I’m still part of this team. If I’m still healthy I’m just going to go out there and fight.”
Like Spoelstra, Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek has faced some internal strife within his team, though his status with the franchise is on far shakier ground than the Heat longtime coach.
With New York coming off a brutal 97-73 loss to the struggling Orlando Magic, New York’s fourth straight loss, Hornacek faced questions about whether his team quit on him in defeat.
“I think right at the end there,” Hornacek said after his team shot 35 percent and scored 12 points in the fourth quarter “That last four, five minutes. The season’s not over and we have a couple more home games. If they come out and shoot the ball like that, it’s going to be really ugly.”
It became contentious in the aftermath with Tim Hardaway Jr and Courtney Lee both voicing frustration, especially when Lee was asked about fans blaming Hornacek for New York’s 14th losing season in the last 17 years.
“For what injuries?” Lee told reporters. “For Tim having a stress fracture. For (Kristaps Porzingis) going down. How (can) you blame coach for that? That’s a question for you, can you answer that on the record?”