Heat fall 89-85, and possible Whiteside problem looms

The Miami Heat lose Game 4, 89-85. But a "bigger" problem might loom.

With 11:23 remaining in the third quarter, Hassan Whiteside thought he was about to be awarded his third personal foul, except it wasn’t his, it was Goran Dragic’s.

Dragic had received his first of five personal fouls, a common theme in the series.

But it was too late, the expression had cemented on Whiteside’s face. Dispirited. Whether it was his frustration with the reserved style he’s been pigeonholed to play, when in foul trouble -- which has been often of late -- no one can truly know. But most can guess, and it doesn’t take a PhD in body language to see that Whiteside wasn’t 100-percent there [in Charlotte], tonight.

It’d be hard to blame a young, inexperienced big for being more emotionally fragile than that of some of his veteran peers. Though it might’ve been Whiteside’s own doing, being reduced to a glorified yield sign can’t be good for his moral. Not when he’s accustomed to swatting shots and snaring rebounds at NBA 2K-esque clip.

In Game 4, Whiteside shot 3-of-5 from the field (8 points).

Along with their center, both Gragic and Dwyane Wade were tortured by whistles in Game 4. And both players just so happen to be the Heat’s lead ball-handlers and Great Whiteside feeders.

Everyone has been stuck playing forward in pick-up hoops before; small or big, you’ve done it. Big dudes like to shoot, too. (Are you going to tell Jared Sullinger he can’t run point down at the Y’[MCA]? If so, I’ll be right behind you. Ignore the sounds of me sprinting the other direction.) Regardless of your size, if you’re playing pick-up and they stuck you at center, have fun with your three field goal attempt and elbows to the face and back. It’s just how it goes, and it’s frustrating … yet you’re only at the park or in a gym. Now, imagine you're Hassan Whiteside, and you’re in the playoffs, and you know you’re going to get into foul trouble, shoot less because of it, and on top of that -- your boys who throw you the rock every once in awhile are annexed to the pine. It ain’t pretty.

The Psyche of the NBA Big Man, it deserves a book on its own. (Where’s Jonathan Abrams?)All I know is, if you don’t put fuel in the tank, it doesn’t run -- or screen, rebound and pass with the verve you’d like. I don’t think the Miami Heat are there yet, but it’s worth watching for.

Hassan Whiteside’s Playoffs, per basketball-reference.com:
Game 1: 21 points, 11 field goal attempts.
Game 2: 17 points, 8 field goal attempts.
Game 3: 13 points, 6 field goal attempts.
Game 4: 8 points, 5 field goal attempts.

Do you see a trend? If Miami wants to win this series, they’re going to need Whiteside, bigtime. 5 FGAs isn’t going to cut it. Plus, by sucking his defenders into the paint -- of which Charlotte has no shame in allowing -- Whiteside is essentially Miami’s best tool to space the floor with. So, the Heat need to find a way, short of hiding the referees’ whistles, to keep it’s big man out of foul trouble and in the game, literally and figuratively. Without Whiteside, the Heat can’t win. And day by day, Game 1 and Game 2 have to start looking more and more like flesh wounds to the Steve Clifford and the Hornets.

Wednesday, April 27: Game 5 is in Miami. And a loss at home would cut deep. Either way, it’s Best-of-3, and Miami has the high ground (not literally).

(Bonus Stat: At 15 passes received per game, Whiteside is the sixth-least passed to center in the playoffs, per NBA.com/Stats.)

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