HEAT (29-35) AT RAPTORS (38-26)
When/Where: 7:30 p.m., Air Canada Centre
TV/Radio: Sun Sports/FM 104.3, AM 790 and WAQI 710AM (Spanish)
Line: Raptors by 5.
Series: Heat leads 48-21.
Of note: Hassan Whiteside is back from his one-game suspension and expected to start at center with Udonis Haslem at power forward. Josh McRoberts (right meniscus surgery) and Chris Bosh (blood clot) are out for the Heat. Luol Deng (calf) is probable.
HENRY WALKER LOCKED IN
The Heat made it official and signed Henry Walker for the rest of the season before tonight’s game in Toronto. Pulled up from the Heat’s D-League affiliate, Walker joined the team on a 10-day contract on Feb.21 amid a complete roster makeover. Chris Bosh had just been diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung, the Heat had just traded away several players for the Dragic brothers, and Wade was returning from a hamstring injury.
Walker was an immediate asset during that chaotic time thanks to his previous experience in the NBA and his familiarity with the Heat’s system after playing for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Walker signed his second 10-day contract with the Heat on March 3.
“I’m just thankful that the organization trusts me enough to extend me for the rest of the year, and I’m just ready to keep working and proving that I belong,” Walker said.
Walker was a volume shooter during his first games with the Heat, but since then has contributed on both ends of the court and filled voids in various ways while other players recovered from injuries. Most recently, Walker started four consecutive games for the Heat. He is projected to come off the bench against the Raptors.
Hassan Whiteside returns to the starting lineup against the Raptors after serving a one-game suspension. The Heat’s center was ejected twice in a week before the NBA suspended him against the Nets without pay. Whiteside watched Wednesday’s game at his apartment.
“It hurt,” Whiteside said. “It felt weird just watching the guys on TV, but I’m glad that we won. I was just at home and cheering.”
The 7-foot center said he was “really excited” to rejoin his teammates for the trip to Toronto. He said the reason for his rash of ejections and technical fouls last week was related to off-the-court issues.
“I guess I really had a lot going on in my personal life,” Whiteside said. “I don’t want to really speak on it, but it won’t happen again.”
Dwyane Wade’s message to Whiteside was simple, play defense and get rebounds.
“He has to do a job and take care of the boards and protect the basket,” Wade said.
The Heat is hopeful Whiteside’s judgment during games improves. After all, the Heat needs the talented center if it hopes to make a run in the playoffs.
“We made our message,” Spoelstra said. “We talked to him enough over the last three days. So, he’s back in the mix and we’re all ready to move forward.”
WADE IN RHYTHM
Expect another big offensive game Dwyane Wade tonight. The Heat’s shooting guard has scored at least 25 points in each of his last four games. He had 28 points and nine assists on Wednesday against the Nets. Spoelstra emphasized that Wade’s defense and leadership are just as important to the Heat right now as his offense.
“He cannot be a one-way player to make this happen for us,” Spoelstra said.