Just in case anybody wasn't sure 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 about Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas. “JV is doing a lot for us.”
Hassan Whiteside had his chance to respond to that comment verbally on Friday. More significant, though, is how he responds in Game 3 on Saturday when the second-round series, which is tied at 1, shifts to Miami.
“Last time I checked, I’m averaging more rebounds,” Whiteside said Friday afternoon. “We out-rebounded them both times. I like that he said. We're winning the rebounding battle regardless of what anybody thinks.”
Asked if this will fuel him, Whiteside said: “I like that. I like that he said that.”
Whiteside hasn’t been bad through two games of this series, with averages of 11 points, 15 rebounds and 2.0 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 shots 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. As each day goes by, I can get close to 100 percent. 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, Toronto coach Dwayne Casey said Friday: “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 etc. They got their hands on a lot of balls. There weren’t a lot of unforced turnovers.”
Erik Spoelstra put it this way: “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. The screening has to be better. Our playmakers have to make rock solid decision.
“We have to do a much better job with our spacing and attention to details. We haven’t played our game and that’s a credit to Toronto. Sometimes you have to find ways to win when you’re not playing to our identity.”
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 the conference semifinals and played two overtimes games to start the second round.
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? You look at all the positives and don’t think about the negatives and use the home energy to give us the extra boost we need.”
THIS AND THAT
Goran Dragic, who needed eight stitches in his lip after an elbow from DeRozan, said the discomfort had lessened Friday. “It's OK. It's happened so many times. It's a little bit tougher to eat right now.”
He celebrated his 30th birthday with a cake from his wife on Friday, complete with 30 candles. How did he eat it, considering the stitches? “Slowly,” he said. “Tried to eat on my left side.”
• 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 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 on a screen. Another missed call should have sent Dragic to the free-throw line.
• Kyle Lowry and DeRozan combining to shoot 16 for 46 from the field (35 percent) and 5 for 14 from the line in Game 2, and Lowry became the first player in NBA history to shoot less than 40 percent in nine consecutive playoff game (minimum 10 shots).
“They carried us the entire year,” Casey said Friday. “It’s hard to say stop shooting and start looking for everybody else. They take accountability for some of the tough shots they take but we have to live with some of their tough shots."
• The NBA announced that Game 5 in Toronto will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
DOLPHINS ROOKIE TALK
The Dolphins began their most unique rookie minicamp ever Friday, in that there was no on-field work, just teaching and lab work.
Some highlights from the media availability with five draft picks:
• Jakeem Grant knows “the return job is going to help me out making the team.”
He also knows his size (5-6) is considered a limitation by many. That doubt drives him.
“I definitely got that my whole life,” he said. “That just created a bigger chip on my shoulder. A whole bunch of guys saying my career is not going to last in the NFL because of my size. People have seen me take a bunch of hits and get right back up.
“I’m going to show the world size doesn’t matter. Middle school, I see people still growing and I’m like ‘Damn.’ I’m not blessed with the height, but I’m blessed with speed and quickness. You can’t hit what you can’t catch. Just because you have a 6-3 corner doesn’t mean you can jam me.'
“I am going to use my strengths to maneuver around him. My numbers didn’t lie coming out of college. They said he’s too short. That’s what they used against me [in not inviting me to] the Combine. Once the ball is in my hand, there’s nobody that can stop me.”
On height-challenged players in general, Grant said: “I feel a lot of guys are looking up to me, just like I looked up to Darren Sproles. I feel if I pave the way for those guys, one day we will be looked at standard receivers [not] gadget guys…. I want to be the best person on the field.”
Grant called Adam Gase an “offensive genius…. Knowing Zach Thomas [another Texas Tech alum] played here motivates me to be a Hall of Famer. I spoke to him [when Thomas visited Texas Tech].”
Grant feels a connection with Thomas because both are undersized for their positions.
• Receiver Leonte Carroo’s self-scouting report: “A lot like Jarvis Landry, a very physical receiver. I’m fast for my size. I had three career drops. I catch the ball very well. I stretch the field. Can play in the slot, catch the underneath routes as well.”
Interesting story: He said he dropped six touchdown passes in a game in his junior year of high school “in a freezing cold game” and “lost a lot of scholarships.”
The next year “I worked on my hands every day. Caught 100 balls [every day] after practice. Dropped one pass my senior year. Told myself I would try not to drop another pass again because it’s embarrassing.”
He said an assault/domestic violence arrest at Rutgers “probably did hurt me” in the draft. But charges were dropped. “It’s behind me now. I was exonerated and was back on my team two weeks after.”
• Kenyan Drake, the former Alabama running back, said: “I don’t need to be in the backfield to make a play. I can line out wide. Kickoff returns. I try to play every play like it’s my last play.”
Did he expect to be the third back taken? “Of course. In my eyes, I was the best back in the draft.”
His best strength? “My versatility, my ability to be an every down back.”
Then there was this odd moment. Asked what he thought of Nick Saban and his best Saban story, Drake said: "Next question."
• Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty said playing for his hometown team "is surreal. I am really, really blessed. Coach Gase is giving me an opportunity to compete, and that's all you can ask for. I am excited to play in front of my family and friends. Last time I was here, I was Sun-Sentinel player of the week. Was here three times my senior year. I dreamt I was Dan Marino growing up. He was my favorite player growing up. To have him sit in our meetings is a pretty cool thing."
"I am accurate, do a pretty good job of taking care of the ball. Those are things you really can't coach.... I respect Matt Moore is here, Ryan [Tannehill] is here. I'm going to enjoy the grind.""
His drive from home in West Davie took four minutes. "No traffic on 595 at 5:30 in the morning."
Former Dolphin Jeff Dellenbach was his coach in high school.
• Former Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard also spoke. My colleagues will have highlights from that. (I was chatting with Dolphins linebacker signee and ex-Louisville standout James Burgess, a familiar name to some South Florida college football fans; more on him in the coming days.)
Couple thoughts from Dolphins coach Adam Gase:
• He felt doing classroom work, instead of on-field work, is helpful this weekend. And Dante Fowler's season-ending injury during a Jaguars minicamp last year entered his thinking in not doing field work this weekend.
"What we basically did this morning was football [talk]. We got them with [Dave] Paloka in the weight room. We wanted to make sure they learned our program so they're in the right kind of shape. We just want to see them attack this playbook, try to use the people they have in this building to their advantage. That transition is a lot harder than people realize."
• On Brandon Doughty: "When I first met him, that's a confident kid. He's got a presence about him, a swagger about him. Very confident. The numbers he put up in college, being part of a winner, I love that fact about him."
• On Kenyan Drake: "When you have a guy like him who's done so much [it's helpful]. Nobody talks about he was on punt [coverage in Alabama]. Being with Nick Saban as long as I was, you know these kids are brought in and they're playing special teams."
• Asked about Jakeem Grant and Leonte Carroo: "The way we look at it, is our definitions for each of those positions is something we keep in house. [But] I don't want a guy sitting next to me the entire game being a spectator. We need guys who can contribute on special teams."
• Gase said he has had a couple of good talks with Laremy Tunsil about events of the past eight days.
• Gase said of an offensive-tilted Dolphins draft: "Going into the draft, we thought more defensive guys would be available to us. He said he likes how GM Chris Grier "stuck to the board."
• He likes that "we got deeper at a lot of different spots."
For a lot of postgame Heat notes and quotes and thoughts, and lots of news in the media column (ESPN talent changes, local radio nuggets, Peyton Manning’s broadcast decision), please click here.