On Saturday night, we got to see yet another vintage performance from Dwyane Wade.
During that same Saturday night, we also got to see one of the most devastating losses in Heat playoff history.
During the second quarter of game three against the Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside left the game after spraining the MCL in his right knee. Whiteside was going up for a defensive rebound. Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry pulled the big man down from his arm. As Whiteside was attempting to brace his fall, Whiteside’s teammate Luol Deng was knocked down and rolled into Whiteside’s knee which made it bend abnormally. After landing into his teammate Deng, Whiteside instantly left the court inside of the American Airlines Arena and never returned.
“As a competitor, you always want to be out there and try to help your teammates as much as possible. When that’s taken away from you, that’s really tough. I’m just going to pray on it and take it from there” said Hassan Whiteside.
Without Whiteside playing in the last two quarters of the game, Miami had a difficult time with their defense and it ended up costing them home court advantage during the process. Miami lost the playoff game to the Raptors 95-91. In the process, they also lost their best defensive player too. Wade might be the leader of the Heat but he’s not their most impactful player.
Whiteside had an amazing year for a player playing in his first full season as a professional. Finishing third behind Draymond Green and Kawhi Leonard in the Defensive Player of the Year voting is no fluke. It’s no fluke either that this season the Heat arguably had the best defense in the league. In the regular season, Miami held their opponents to 91.6 points per game which is the second-best behind the San Antonio Spurs. The good news is though Whiteside has been listed as day-to-day and his return might happen.
However, the reason this is so devastating is to the franchise is because Whiteside brought hope that Miami could make it out of the second round of the playoffs and eventually challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Without Whiteside, Miami might be able to still defeat Toronto, but they won’t have enough firepower to take out Cleveland. Additionally, because Miami’s All-Star power forward Chris Bosh isn’t playing it only means the team now is running on low supply on big men.
Thankfully, Udonis Haslem is a trooper because when he had to check in for Whiteside’s injury he had yet another solid game where he finished with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting, seven rebounds, and two assists in 22 minutes. He by far was Miami’s best big men off of the bench and he’ll have to continue that trend if Miami wants to have a shot at winning this series.
“He’s as professional as it gets. I love playing with him. He’s going to do all the right things. Is he going to make every shot? No. Is he going to be able to block shots like Hassan? No. But UD does what UD do. He’s a great defensive guy. He’s going to make it tough for their bigs and their guards. He’s going to do a great job boxing out. He’s going to screen the heck out of guys. I’m very confident with him in the lineup for this team” said Dwyane Wade.
Speaking of Wade, someone needs to relay the message to him that he’ll have to start going for 30 points or more for the rest of the series if Miami wants to win. The team might be without their best defensive player, but it won’t stop Miami’s ability from competing with passion.
D’Joumbarey A. Moreau covers sports in Miami-Dade & Broward County. You can follow him on Twitter @DJoumbarey