After a four day break, the Miami Heat would face the Minnesota Timberwolves to continue their seven game homestand.
Miami played well for the majority of the game, leading the Wolves for the first three quarters, with Whiteside leading the way. Hassan had 12 points, 9 rebounds and an intimating 5 blocks at the half. In the third, Whiteside would go on a blocking spree, rejecting five shots to get him the amazing triple-double with blocks in less than 30 minutes. Shabazz Muhammad and Andrew Wiggins kept Minny in the game despite Whiteside’s wonders. After three quarters, Miami led 69-62.
That’s when Minnesota would flip the switch. The high-profile sophomores, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, showed off their potential. Wiggins hit shots all over the lane and LaVine hit a couple threes before the both of them sank a series of free-throws to put the Heat away. The dynamic duo led the T-Wolves to a massive 41-22 fourth quarter turnaround to win the game, 103-91.
Whiteside had a magnificent night, putting up 22 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks, but the Wolves would counter and hack the young center. Whiteside’s inability to make free-throws down the stretch coupled with the season high 21 turnovers for Miami prevented the Heat from getting back into the game. Whiteside's gigantic triple-double was already his second in less than 82 games and the Heat's 20th in franchise. Deng had a productive night with 20 points and 6 rebounds but the Heat bench only had 13 points total.
With the performance Whiteside had Tuesday, a matchup with DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings would be a must-see. The NBA however announced Cousins would be suspended for elbowing Al Horford the night before.
Despite Cousins’ absence, the Kings played an excellent game to give the Heat some trouble. Due to some early foul trouble, Whiteside was sent to the bench, which allowed Amar'e Stoudemire to get some playing time. Stoudemire only played 8 minutes the whole game, all coming in the first quarter, but he made his impact felt with an efficient 10 points. With Wade and Tyler Johnson playing consistent, the Heat led the Kings, 56-46, at halftime.
Coming out of the break, Whiteside would make the Kings feel his presence; he blocked two shots in less than 15 seconds to begin the third. He moved on to have 10 points and 4 blocks in the quarter, obliterating the Kings attempt to hack him. While Whiteside kept the Heat rolling, Rajon Rondo had the Kings connecting. Rondo looked like the point guard the Heat would face when they squared up with the Boston Celtics. Rondo had 14 assists heading into the fourth, with the Kings trailing only by 6. The Heat found ways to slow down Rondo as the game came to end holding the fierce point guard to just 4 assists in the fourth quarter. Bosh would save his best for last as he went for 13 in the quarter, hitting shots all over the field. The Kings would get close as the game to a a close but free throws from Deng and Wade sealed it, leading the Heat to a 116-109 win over the visitors.
Wade led the Heat with 24 points and 6 assists. Bosh had 23 points and 11 rebounds on 8-12 shooting and Tyler Johnson added 19 points off the bench. Rondo finished with 14 points, 18 assists and 9 rebounds, just missing a triple double in a game high 40 minutes. The Heat took care of the ball a lot better than their game with the Wolves, this time only turning the ball over 7 times compared to the Kings 18.
On Saturday, Miami would face the worst team in the NBA, the Philadelphia 76ers. Coming in with a winless record and a 23 game losing streak dating back to last season, the Sixers were eager to get a win. They played like it early, surprising Miami with an early 17 point lead. After taking a 28-16 first quarter lead the Sixers, behind Robert Covington and Isaiah Canaan, would take a commanding 47-32 lead at half-time. Wade was the only player on the Heat converting with 17 first half points.
Miami fought back in the third quarter; Despite Canaan’s offensive barrage, Wade and Whiteside chipped at the lead on both sides of the court. Whiteside already had 8 blocks and 9 rebounds heading into the final quarter. Down by 11 early in the fourth quarter, the Heat would turn up the intensity and initiate a comeback. Winslow made a crafty layup with the foul to fall before throwing down an emphatic alley-oop dunk from Wade to get the home crowd roaring. That would lead to an 11-2 run to end the game. Bosh and Winslow hit a couple more shots and Green, who got all his points in the fourth, sank multiple free-throws at the finish line to give the Heat the 96-91 win at home.
The Heat had an enormous second half surge, scoring 64 points while holding the Sixers to 44 points. Wade led the Heat again with 27 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals. In the process, he moved up to 49th place on the all-time scoring list with 19,017 points to pass Dale Ellis and Reggie Theus. Wade's arrival among the top 50 scorers is a symbolic, proud achievement for the Miami Heat franchise.
Whiteside almost had another triple-double, finishing with 13 points, 9 rebounds and 8 blocks. For Philadelphia, it was their bench that led them; Canaan had 22 points and Covington 21. Jahlil Okafor had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds but it was his former college teammate, Winslow, who made the game-changing plays to give Miami the win.
Currently 5-1 on their homestand, the Heat have looked good for the most part. The loss against Minnesota was a very winnable game but one Miami let get away. Although the Heat have been cruising these past couple of weeks, it’s nothing to take out of proportion though, as all these wins have come against the league’s weaker side of teams. Still, the progression has showed and Wade has bounced back from poor outings to two straight 25+ point games. Whiteside has also portrayed his defensive dominance, putting the league on notice. The Heat center is averaging the most blocks in the NBA with 4.8. Gobert, who trails him, sits at 2nd with 3 BPG. Whiteside is single-handedly making Miami a defensive powerhouse.
Miami’s level of difficulty will pick up a little this week with meetings against the New York Knicks Monday (7:30 PM), Detroit Pistons Wednesday(7:30 PM) and a rematch with the Knicks in New York on Friday (7:30 PM).