MIAMI (AP) Hassan Whiteside now has more rebounds in a season than any player in Miami Heat history.
Now Miami needs him to rebound from another hand injury.
Whiteside had 23 points and 14 rebounds before leaving late in obvious pain and with blood on his right hand, and the Heat beat the Phoenix Suns 112-97 on Tuesday night. He was getting stitches postgame to repair a cut between his middle and ring fingers, and the team said he will be evaluated again on Wednesday.
Whiteside had a similar injury – same place, same hand – late in the 2014-15 season and missed three games.
“It’s in the awkward place in his hand,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I know everybody will be thinking, `Oh, is this the same, is it worse, how do you compare it to two years ago?’ We’ll see.”
Whiteside now has 936 rebounds in 66 games this season, two more than Rony Seikaly had in 79 games in 1991-92. He was hurt with 2:08 left and the Heat leading by 24, when his hand got caught in the foam attached to the bottom of the backboard. He let out a loud scream and headed to the locker room.
Tyler Johnson scored 17 for the Heat (35-36), who had seven players in double figures. Goran Dragic scored 16, Josh Richardson had 14 and Willie Reed added 12 for Miami.
Marquese Chriss scored 24 for Phoenix (22-49), which lost its fifth straight and used only an eight-player rotation until the final minutes. Leandro Barbosa scored 13, Alex Len scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and T.J. Warren scored 12 for the Suns.
Miami trailed by five midway through the second quarter, and then outscored Phoenix 53-27 over the next 20 minutes. And it came on a night where the Heat were far from sharp offensively – they shot 44 percent, with Whiteside and Dragic combining to miss 16 of their first 20 shots.
It didn’t matter.
The win, combined with Detroit’s loss in Brooklyn, moved Miami back into a top-eight seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Heat are a game ahead of the Pistons.
Suns: Phoenix listed rest as the reason for sitting Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler. Knight – a native of nearby Fort Lauderdale – also missed Phoenix’s game in Miami last season. … Barbosa returned after missing two games with an illness. … The Suns’ starting frontcourt outscored Miami’s 23-2 in the game’s first 18 minutes.
Heat: Dragic was fouled while attempting 3-pointer for the 24th time this season. He has yet to record a four-point play. … Tyler Johnson had three first-quarter baskets in March, and then made five in a five-minute stretch of the first quarter Tuesday. … The Heat are 14-15 this season against the West. They can finish .500 against the league’s other side with a win over Denver on April 2.
Whiteside now has 57 double-digit rebound games this season, a Heat record – one more than Seikaly in 1991-92. Whiteside also extended his franchise records for consecutive double-digit rebound games (17) and consecutive double-doubles (13). His 49th double-double of the season is four shy of Seikaly’s record in that department, also in 1991-92.
The loss was Phoenix’s 49th of the season. The Suns are one defeat away from consecutive 50-loss seasons, something the franchise hasn’t endured since the 1973-74 and 1974-75 campaigns.
Suns: Visit Brooklyn on Thursday, the third game of a six-game trip.
Heat: Host Toronto on Thursday, the finale of a five-game homestand.