Whiteside sparks Heat in win over Bulls
MIAMI — Optimism and Hassan Whiteside have returned to the Miami Heat.
Whiteside, just back from a five-game absence, posted 13 points and 14 rebounds as Miami defeated the Chicago Bulls 97-91 on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The game marked the end of 3-4 Miami’s three-game losing streak, and perhaps the fact that it coincided with Whiteside finally overcoming the bone bruise on his knee was, well, no coincidence.
Even so, Whiteside played just 26 minutes and admitted he felt fatigued toward the end of his stint.
“This was my first time playing five-on-five since I got injured,” Whiteside said. “I forgot how fast the game was.”
He did just fine, though, making 6-of-11 shots from the floor, grabbing two offensive rebounds, handing out one assist and committing zero turnovers.
Whiteside posted his ninth consecutive double-double, dating to last March. He even made his second career 3-pointer as he is 2-for-2 from deep in his 219 games in six years in the league.
Defense, though, was Whiteside’s main contribution.
“We’re last in the league in defense and rebounding,” Whiteside said. “I can always inject those two things into the team. Let’s get up to the top five in defense like last year.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who celebrated his 47th birthday, said Whiteside’s first seven minutes were outstanding.
“He was grabbing rebounds 12 feet off the floor,” Spoelstra said. “His defense, communication and energy were great, and then I think he hit the wall. I probably should’ve managed that better. But that will only get better as he gets his full-court conditioning.”
Point guard Goran Dragic (20 points) and reserve Tyler Johnson (17 of his 19 points in the second half) were Miami’s scoring leaders.
Dragic entered the game battling a cold and had missed Tuesday’s practice.
“Goran’s a closer,” Spoelstra said. “He was under the weather, but he just finds a way. No matter how you think he feels, he’s going to have 20 on the board, several assists.
“He’s going to make big plays and make our offense look better, and he’s going to shoot 50 percent. You can bank on his play every night.”
Dragic, like Spoelstra, seemed thrilled to get Whiteside back on the court.
“The past three days,” Dragic said, “I was asking (Whiteside), ‘When are you coming back?’ It’s nice to have him out there.”
Chicago (1-5) was led by rookie forward Lauri Markkanen, who had a season-high 25 points and eight rebounds. Center Robin Lopez added a season-high 22 points.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said he was pleased with Markkanen’s performance. Markkanen made 9-of-18 shots, including 2-of-7 on 3-pointers, and had two steals, one assist and zero turnovers. He was also plus-seven on a losing night.
“It gives us a lot of hope,” Hoiberg said. “For him to step up and play like he is now is a great sign for the player that he is already and the player he can become.
“He has no fear. He wants to watch film. He’s a humble kid. He’s got all of the qualities to be a superstar in this league.”
Miami led 27-17 after the first quarter as Whiteside had the big start Spoelstra spoke of — seven points and nine rebounds. His 3-pointer came from the top of the key.
The Heat stretched their lead to 15 points, but Chicago battled back as the Bulls shot 52.2 percent in the second quarter. Miami shot just 39.1 percent and limped into halftime with a slim 49-47 lead. Markanen had 13 points in the second quarter.
Miami fell behind in the third quarter but used a 10-1 run at the end of the period, leading 67-64 lead entering the fourth. The Heat took over from there to close out the Bulls.
In the end, neither team shot better than 41 percent for the game. But Miami made 12-of-31 for 38.7 percent on 3-pointers while Chicago made 7-of-28 for 25 percent on 3-pointers.
“The effort was there, but we missed a lot of shots,” Hoiberg said. “We had a lot of good looks.”
NOTES: Bulls SG David Nwaba earned his first start of the season and scored four points and 11 rebounds. He started twice as a rookie last season. ... Heat F James Johnson (right knee tendinitis) sat out the game but was available on an emergency basis. ... Heat F Okaro White, 25, earned the first start of his two-year NBA career and scored three points. White is a former Florida State standout who went undrafted by the NBA. ... Bulls SG Zach LaVine (knee surgery) may be able to return ni December. ... Bulls F Bobby Portis, suspended eight games for punching teammate Nikola Mirotic, will miss two more contests and can return Tuesday at the Toronto Raptors. Mirotic is beginning to work out but has yet to shoot or take contact.