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Saturday night: Update on Whiteside's knee on heels of memorable dinner with Russell; Lots of Heat Game 3 postscripts, reaction; Dolphins

 

Postscripts from the Heat's 95-91 loss to Toronto, which gave the Raptors a 2-1 lead in this Eastern Conference semifinal series:

• A right knee injury shelved Hassan Whiteside for most of the final three quarters of Game 3, and the Heat was very concerned on Saturday about the potential severity.

X-rays came back negative, but Whiteside will undergo an MRI on Sunday to determine if there is any ligament damage.

Even if there is no tear to a knee ligament, a sprained ligament also could sideline a player for a while. Golden State’s Stephen Curry has missed two weeks with a sprained MCL.

Asked if he believes it could be a longterm injury, Whiteside said: “I don’t know. We’ll know more when I get the MRI…. I’m going to just pray on it.”

He said he had never felt anything like that before in his knee and that his first instinct was that it’s bad. He left the arena wearing a soft cast on the leg, which is standard for this type of situation because it keeps swelling down.

The Heat referred to the injury as a “twisted” knee.

He said the pain was a seven on a scale of 0 to 10.

The injury – which the Heat initially announced as a sprain - happened when Whiteside lost his balance and fell to the floor when jockeying for a rebound early in the second quarter.

Luol Deng and Kyle Lowry each made contact with Whiteside as he fell, with Lowry pulling Whiteside's arm before he crumbled to the floor. It was the same knee that Whiteside strained in Game 1, but he said this is an entirely different injury.

“I was just going for the rebound and I felt someone fall on my knee,” Whiteside said. “I don’t know if it was intentional or by accident. I think Kyle Lowry dove or fell into my knee and pushed it in. I didn't see the play, but that's what happened.... My leg went two different ways.”

Meanwhile, Toronto lost center Jonas Valanciunas, who had 16 points and 12 boards and left for good with 8:53 left in the third quarter after spraining his right ankle. The Raptors led by 13 at the time.

Coach Dwane Casey said he has no break or structural damage and is day to day. His ankle was swollen and he couldn't wear his dress shoe after the game, Toronto media reported.

Without Whiteside, Spoelstra used all three of his reserve centers: Udonis Haslem (eight points, seven rebounds in 22 minutes), Josh McRoberts (four points, four rebounds in 13 minutes) and Amare Stoudemire (scoreless, no rebounds in four minutes).

Haslem started the second half and Stoudemire didn’t play at all in the second half.

Whiteside’s injury Saturday came a night after a memorable dinner at a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino steakhouse with NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell. Mutual friends arranged the dinner, which marked the first time they met. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was among others in attendance.

“It was great; [Russell] is a really nice guy, really down to earth,” Whiteside told me before the game. “There were a lot of things we got to take away from this. We talked about life, talked about basketball, talked about his rookie year. We talked about championships. We talked about a lot.”

On the issue of blocks, they share a lot in common. Russell is arguably the best defensive center in history, though blocks weren’t kept as a stat in his era.

Whiteside’s 3.7 blocks average this season was the NBA’s highest since Theo Ratliff averaged slightly more in 2000-01.

“We talked about blocks,” Whiteside said. “He said every block that goes out of bounds is a bad block. He said that’s the thing he really likes about what I do. I keep it in bounds.

“He was telling people blocking shots today is a lot harder than it is when he played. He was talking about the factor of it demoralizes teams. He said, ‘You’re not going to be able to block every shot. Just make them think you’re going to block every shot.’”

Another topic they touched on, Whiteside said, was “what it takes to be a leader. How he was always worried about his guys on the court. He never led his team in scoring. He just did all the extra stuff.”

Whiteside feels fortunate that he has cultivated relationships with several premier big men: Shaquille O’Neal, Heat executive Alonzo Mourning, Hakeem Olajuwon (who tutored Whiteside for several days a few summers ago) and now Russell.

“He’s got a really big personality,” Whiteside said of Russell. “Anytime I get to learn more and get a feel for somebody as great as he is, I’m going to do that. He said he’s going to keep watching me.”

The question now is whether Russell, and everyone else, will be able to watch Whiteside again this postseason.

MORE FROM GAME 3

Among the most surprising developments of the playoffs: Dwyane Wade’s sudden excellence on three-pointers.

After shooting 7 for 44 on threes during the regular season, Wade is now 8 of 11 in the playoffs, including a 4-for-6 performance in Game 3.

Wade, who scored 38 in Game 3, missed his first three this postseason, then made seven in a row (including his first three Saturday). Before these playoffs, Wade never had hit more than five threes in a row in his 1016-game career.

Wade’s 44 three-point attempts this season were the second-fewest of his career and came a year after he attempted 102 (and made 29).

For his career, Wade is a 28.4 percent shooter on threes during the regular season. But he was a 33.5 percent three-point shooter in his postseason career, entering Saturday.

He was 9 for 24 on threes during the 2014 playoffs, LeBron James’ last season with the team.

• Before tonight, the Heat had been 8-0 in playoff games when Wade scored 38 or more. Wade leads the NBA with 86 made field goals this postseason. Kevin Durant ranks second with 70.

• In Game 3 on Saturday, Erik Spoelstra used five backups who went parts of the season completely out of the rotation. But he did not use the one reserve who was in the rotation all season: Justise Winslow.

Winslow said he didn’t know this would happen and that he hadn’t discussed it with Spoelstra.

Winslow’s impact had been modest in the first two games of this second-round series, with more turnovers (four) than points (two).

He has shot 40.9 percent overall this postseason (18 for 44) and just 2 for 12 on threes, with the Hornets and Raptors often leaving him open on the perimeter. Winslow has said that improving his three-point shooting from the corners is a priority, but it remains a work in progress.

• Kyle Lowry entered shooting just 30.8 percent in postseason and having become the first player in NBA history to shoot less than 40 percent in nine consecutive playoff games (minimum 10 shots).

But he was exceptional in Game 3, closing with 33 points (including 29 in the second half) on 11 for 19 shooting and scoring seven points in the final 2:07, including a three-pointer that broke an 82-82 tie.

“It was just [a matter] of time, if I kept shooting, for them to go down,” Lowry said.

• The Heat’s starting forwards had quiet nights offensively, with Joe Johnson missing an open three that could have tied the game with 16 seconds left. Johnson (10 points) finished 4 for 11 and is 0 for 10 on threes in the series.

“It’s nothing they are doing defensively,” Johnson said. “I’ve just got to make shots.”

Luol Deng (four points) shot 2 for 6.

• Goran Dragic, who played so well in the first two games of the series, shot 5 for 14 on a 12-point night, finishing with five of the Heat’s nine turnovers, compared with just one assist.

Dragic left with his fifth foul with six minutes left and didn't return until six seconds were left. "I wanted a longer defender in Josh Richardson," Spoelstra said.

• The NBA announced that Game 5 in Toronto will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday on TNT and Game 6 in Miami, if needed, at 8 p.m. Friday on ESPN.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz.... Please click here for a ton of newsy Dolphins notes from Saturday, on a day Cam Wake signed a two-year contract extension.

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