National Basketball Association
76ers-Heat Preview
National Basketball Association

76ers-Heat Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 11:05 a.m. ET

Despite so much changing since the All-Star break, the Miami Heat are at a pretty high comfort level.

Especially Hassan Whiteside.

No player has grabbed more rebounds or blocked more shots since the break, and the 7-footer has even been hitting most of his free throws for a Miami team which can post its longest win streak in two years by completing a home-and-home sweep of the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Hosting the league's worst team gives the Heat (36-26) a prime opportunity to win a fifth consecutive game, something they haven't done since the LeBron James era - an eight-game run Feb. 11-March 3, 2014. After all, Miami did just win Friday in Philadelphia despite blowing an early 16-point cushion, leading by as many as 18 in the fourth quarter of a 112-102 victory.


Whiteside had 19 points and 19 rebounds for his seventh double-double since the break. He was 7 of 8 from the foul line and has gone 28 for 30 in the last six games, fairly astonishing for a career 55.6-percent free-throw shooter.

''You know when it's a rainy day and you get hot chocolate and you put a nice movie on and you tuck yourself in?'' Whiteside explained. ''That's how comfortable I feel at the free-throw line.''

Whiteside is averaging 18.5 points, 15.5 boards and 3.8 blocks in eight games since being suspended for Miami's first game after the break for throwing an elbow at San Antonio center Boban Marjanovic.

''After the All-Star break, he came back a different person on the basketball floor," star Dwyane Wade said. "He's really focused on being dominant night in and night out.''

Wade hasn't been too shabby himself with 23.8 points per game in the last six. Even with him missing the first two games after the break for a sore knee and Chris Bosh missing them all due to a blood clot, only Golden State and San Antonio have better records since All-Star weekend than Miami's 7-2 mark.

That distinction is particularly impressive considering that span has included plenty of roster turnover. Beno Udrih was lost to a foot injury before getting waived, Chris Andersen and Jarnell Stokes were traded away and veteran Joe Johnson was signed. Miami is 4-0 since landing Johnson, averaging 14.2 points on 62.2 percent shooting in a Heat uniform.

"I think adding a player like Joe and with guys coming out of the All-Star break having to play without Chris has really built the confidence in everyone," Wade said. "And it's all come together.''

The opposite has been true of the 76ers (8-54), losers of 11 straight. Top big men Jahlil Okafor (shin) and Nerlens Noel (knee) sat out Friday, as did reserves Nick Stauskas and Kendall Marshall due to illness, and all of them have been ruled out of this game.

That could lead to more minutes for 36-year-old Elton Brand, who had eight points and four rebounds Friday in his 76ers debut. He's trying to set a good example for a young team which is likely to finish with fewer than 20 wins for a third straight season.

"You might not be as fast or as athletic, but you can want it, you can just play hard," Brand said. "That's what our fans and this city is about, hard work."

Whiteside thinks they've shown that.

"They really play hard," he said. "... You can't come in here and try to disrespect them and think they're gonna just give you the game."

The 76ers, though, have allowed an average of 117.9 points in their last 10.

The Heat have held their last eight opponents to 40.7 percent from the field.


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