Erik Spoelstra Praises Hassan Whiteside Following Victory Over Utah Jazz

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The dominant play of Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside was a key factor in helping the Heat in their 102-100 victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday night. During his postgame press conference, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra offered high praise to Whiteside for a performance that saw him score 23 points, grab 20 rebounds and block three shots.

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That fire has been something that Spoelstra has been seeking on a regular basis from Whiteside, whose inconsistent play has affected his playing time. On Sunday night, he compiled his statistical numbers in just 34 minutes of action and played more than ten minutes in the fourth quarter. In Miami’s previous four games, Whiteside wasn’t used at all during the final period, a testament to how well he performed against Utah.

An issue that continues to plague Whiteside relates to his problems connecting on free throws. He managed to hit on just one of his six attempts against the Jazz and has only made two of his last 18 free throws for an average of just 11 percent.

Spoelstra made a point to mention that those free-throw shooting woes didn’t affect Whiteside during Sunday’s game:

“That’s the maturity that I’m talking about. He’s just committing himself to find a way to impact winning, one way or another. At the end of the day, did anybody realize or even care about the missed free throws? You can’t. Not when he’s making those kind of efforts, protecting the basket, giving us second opportunities, playing with power and force. Nobody cares about that. Just help us win, big fella, and he did that tonight.”

Despite his struggles at the charity stripe, Whiteside expects things to change soon in that area:

“I was over-thinking it the last couple of games. My teammates were talking to me that it’s going to work itself out. I shot close to 70-percent from the free-throw line last year. I believe in hard work and if I keep putting in the work, I think it’s going to turn around and fall for me.”

The next opportunity for Whiteside to try his luck at the line will come on Tuesday night, when the Heat host the Orlando Magic at American Airlines Arena. Following that game, the Heat will start a 10-day road trip that begins on Friday in Phoenix.
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Brad Sullivan is a freelance writer for, having been an avid fan of NBA basketball for more than four decades. During that time, he's watched the Heat evolve from gestation period to expansion team all the way to three-time NBA champions. He'll follow their quest toward again reaching those lofty heights, and do so by offering some perspective along the way.