White­side gob­bles re­bounds like he’s ‘eat­ing Cap’n Crunch’

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Nba - BY DAVID WIL­SON db­wil­son@mi­ami­her­ald.com

Josh Richard­son was in­cred­u­lous, but not nec­es­sar­ily sur­prised, to hear the num­bers that went along with Has­san White­side’s per­for­mance in the Mi­ami Heat’s 110-102 loss to the In­di­ana Pac­ers on Fri­day. For the sec­ond straight game, White­side pulled in 20 re­bounds. Hear­ing this num­ber once again caused Richard­son’s eyes to widen and seek con­fir­ma­tion from no one in par­tic­u­lar.

“He had 20 re­bounds again?” Richard­son said in the Heat’s locker room af­ter the game Fri­day. “He’s locked in right now. He’s bring­ing a lot of good things to the ta­ble.”

Even be­fore the Heat’s four-game home­s­tand be­gan Wed­nes­day against the San An­to­nio Spurs, White­side was sec­ond only to Detroit Pis­tons post player An­dre Drum­mond on the NBA leader­board for re­bounds per game.

The cen­ter’s first two games back at Amer­i­canAir­lines Arena have seen his num­bers bal­loon. For the first time in his ca­reer, White­side recorded 20 re­bounds in back-to-back games, lift­ing his av­er­age per game to 15.7 en­ter­ing a Satur­day home game against the Wash­ing­ton Wizards, up from 14.6 per game when the home­s­tand be­gan.

He’s on pace to break his sin­gle-sea­son fran­chise record of 14.1 re­bounds per game, set dur­ing the 201617 sea­son.

White­side’s per­for­mance Wed­nes­day was al­ways go­ing to be a tough act to fol­low.

The 29-year-old was the best ver­sion of him­self, fin­ish­ing with 29 points, 20 re­bounds and nine blocks to come up just shy of his fifth ca­reer triple-dou­ble. His out­ing Fri­day, how­ever, was an­other of his best this year. White­side scored only 11 points, but added 20 re­bounds and five blocks while shoot­ing 5 of 8 from the floor.

These two 20-re­bound games go along with an­other mon­ster out­ing he had in the Oct. 29 loss to the Sacra­mento Kings. In that game, White­side pulled down 24 re­bounds, com­ing up one short of match­ing a ca­reer high.

“I’m strug­gling out there to get like four or five re­bounds be­cause he’s just gob­bling ev­ery­thing up,” post player Kelly Olynyk said in the locker room af­ter the game Fri­day. “You have good re­bound­ers who re­bound and make an ex­tra ef­fort, then you have great re­bound­ers that re­bound and re­bound out­side of their area.

That’s what he’s get­ting to, is an elite-level re­bounder. He’s re­bound­ing ba­si­cally a whole 15-foot cir­cle around the bas­ket. Any­thing that lands within 15 feet of the bas­ket is his re­bound.

“It’s pretty unique, hon­estly. I haven’t played with a lot of guys who just go and get 20 re­bounds like it’s eat­ing Cap’n Crunch in the morn­ing.”

The 20-re­bound thresh­old is still un­usual — White­side now has 18 in his ca­reer, three away from match­ing Rony Seikaly’s fran­chise record for 20re­bound games — but big per­for­mances are now the ex­pec­ta­tion for the Heat. In ad­di­tion to the re­bound num­bers, White­side also leads the league in blocks per game and is av­er­ag­ing more than 14 points per game while shoot­ing bet­ter than 50 per­cent from the floor.

Be­fore Mi­ami’s of­fense came un­done in the fi­nal min­utes against the Pac­ers, White­side made some po­ten­tial game-chang­ing plays on both ends of the floor.

He opened the fourthquar­ter scor­ing by flush­ing home an al­ley-oop from guard Tyler John­son to cut In­di­ana’s lead to 84-82. With the Heat hold­ing a three-point lead at the mid­point of the fi­nal quar­ter, White­side ex­tended a Mi­ami pos­ses­sion by fight­ing through three Pac­ers (8-5) to grab an of­fen­sive re­bound and draw a foul, though the 7-footer missed both en­su­ing free throws.

On the other end, White­side helped the Heat (5-6) main­tain its 100-98 lead head­ing into the fi­nal two min­utes when he got switched on to Vic­tor Oladipo and blocked the Al­lS­tar guard’s step-back jumper at the free-throw line.

White­side has openly longed for both De­fen­sive Player of the Year con­sid­er­a­tion and a spot in the 2019 All-Star Game. Plays like the ones he made in the fourth quar­ter Fri­day will help his case.

“You guys and the fans haven’t been able to see what he’s done be­hind the scenes, but he re­ally pre­pared for this sea­son this sum­mer,” coach Erik Spoel­stra said at his postgame news con­fer­ence Fri­day.

“At pre­sea­son prac­tices, he had quite a few per­for­mances like this, where we were the only ones that saw it.

“You keep on bring­ing that type of en­ergy and fo­cus ev­ery day, then that just be­comes who you are.”

White­side quickly quelled any worry of a let­down af­ter his Wed­nes­day erup­tion. He came just one block shy of a triple­dou­ble Wed­nes­day and needed only 67 sec­onds Fri­day to get his first, swat­ting away a layup by wing Bo­jan Bog­danovic in the first two min­utes. Fiftythree sec­onds later, he turned away an­other layup from Oladipo.

Right away, White­side’s team­mates could see he was ready to pick up where he had left off.

Now ev­ery­one wants to make sure he can keep it go­ing.

“You can tell with his body lan­guage,” Richard­son said. “We can tell when he’s locked in and when he’s kind of start­ing slow, so we try to keep him locked.”

PE­DRO POR­TAL ppor­tal@mi­ami­her­ald.com

Has­san White­side has for the first time recorded 20 re­bounds in back-to-back games, lift­ing his av­er­age per game to 15.7 en­ter­ing Satur­day’s game against the Wizards.

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