Whiteside had gone 20-plus minutes without committing a foul before getting called for four in a span of four-and-a-half minutes in the third quarter — forcing the hulking center to tread carefully throughout the rest of the game. The big man got removed shortly after, being replaced by Willie Reed, as things began to fall apart for the Heat.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra vehemently defended his $98-million center, noting that while the calls might not have gone his way on Sunday, using the fundamentals of verticality will ultimately play in his favor.
“We see it differently,” Spoelstra said about the calls, according to Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post. “Who cares? Those are the plays I want him to make. I told him when he came to the bench, I want him going vertical, I want him being a presence.
“I thought he did that. He’s getting so much more savvy in terms of being able to block shots and protect the rim. He had one where he went up vertical and forced a miss and another one where he didn’t jump and I thought he was there. Both of them they called fouls. He’s building the right habits.”
Both teams have been desperately fighting for a spot in the playoffs, sitting on the outside looking in after Sunday’s outing — making the loss that much tougher on Whiteside, as the Heat had already gotten into the playoff bubble following two straight wins.
“They thought it was a foul I guess,” said Whiteside, who put up 17 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks in the loss. “I watch film on myself all day and I know the NBA rules. They got called for fouls today.”