Just in case anybody doubted which seven-footer has gotten the better of this Heat-Raptors playoff series so far, Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan wants to make it very clear.
“You can honestly see who’s the dominant big out there when it comes to rebounding and scoring,” DeRozan said late Thursday night, referring to Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas. “JV is doing a lot for us.”
Hassan Whiteside had his chance to respond verbally to that comment on Friday. More significant, though, is how he responds during Game 3 on Saturday, when the second-round, best-of-7 series — which is tied at 1 — shifts to Miami.
“Last time I checked, I’m averaging more rebounds,” Whiteside said Friday when told of DeRozan’s comment. “I like that he said. … We’re winning the rebounding battle regardless of what anybody thinks.”
Asked if the DeRozan comment will fuel him, Whiteside said: “I like that. I like he said that.”
Whiteside hasn’t been bad through two games of this series, with averages of 11 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks. But Valanciunas, overall, has been better, averaging 19.5 points, on 68 percent shooting, 13.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks, albeit while taking 25 shot attempts to Whiteside’s 14.
Valanciunas beat Whiteside to a key offensive rebound late in Game 2 and outscored Whiteside 9-3 in the fourth quarter. Whiteside didn’t get a point or rebound in his 3:54 of overtime.
“I don’t know if it’s necessary that we need [Whiteside] to have certain numbers,” Dwyane Wade said. “But Valanciunas has been very good the first two games. Hassan doesn’t need anybody to say anything to give him motivation. He will be fine.”
Whiteside said the knee strain that he sustained in Game 1 is “bothering me but I’m not here to make excuses. They tell me that at 80 percent I can compete with anybody. I don’t got to be 100 percent to dominate in this league.”
Most challenging thing about this Valanciunas matchup?
“He’s got long arms like me,” Whiteside said. “He has got some key, key rebounds at the end, but we still had a chance to win. We got a little stagnant offensively.”
Whiteside then reminded reporters that the Raptors have “got to come to South Beach. Everybody forgot we played two games on their court. We got one. They got to come to our court now.”
Asked whether the Raptors should attack Whiteside more in the paint, Raptors coach Dwayne Casey said: “You don’t want to poke a bear. You want to make sure the bear is dead before you poke it. He’s a great shot-blocker. You have to respect that and a lot of times use that against him.”
Whiteside winning the center matchup would help, but this would, too: Fewer turnovers.
The Heat has 41 in two games, including 21 in Game 2.
“You come off one series where they were so disciplined to their game plan and then you play a team that is a little undisciplined in the sense of how they play defense,” Wade said. “They are kind of all over the place, do a lot of reaching. They got their hands on a lot of balls. There weren’t a lot of unforced turnovers.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra said: “Our offensive execution has to be significantly better and more efficient. I’d love for us not to kick the ball all over the gym. That’s No. 1.”
This has been taxing playoff run for both teams, who both were extended to seven games in the first round, had a quick turnaround for their second round series and then played two overtimes games in 51 hours.
This marks only the fifth time in NBA history that the first two games of a playoff series went to overtime.
It happened in the NBA Finals last season and three times between 1980 and 1985.
“You fight a tough seven-game series, get a day off and go into two overtime games on the road and get in at 5 o’clock [in the morning Friday], it’s not ideal,” Wade said. “But what else would you rather be doing?”
In its final two-minute report for Game 2, the NBA said there were two incorrect non-calls, both costing the Heat, and that Toronto players should have been called for fouls in both instances — once in the fourth quarter and another in overtime.
On one of them, the NBA said Valanciunas extended his leg on a screen on Goran Dragic without giving him room to avoid the contact. It marked the third time that the NBA conceded that a late game foul should have been called on Valanciunas’ screen.