Utah Jazz vs. Miami Heat: Keys to get back on track

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 1: Hassan Whiteside (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 1: Hassan Whiteside (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Key #2 – Shut down Hassan Whiteside

Despite the fact that many Jazz fans feel some amount of disdain for Hassan Whiteside given that the overwhelming media and fan narrative is that he is a better center than Rudy Gobert, the fact of the matter is that Whiteside’s rise to NBA acclaim is one of the better stories in the league. His rise from a largely forgotten D-League player to a rising NBA star has certainly been an intriguing one.

Since joining the Miami Heat during the 2014-15 season, there’s no questioning that he’s been a prolific part of that team and one of, if not the best player on their roster. He’s off to a good start once again this season at 16.5 points per game on 55.4 percent shooting from the field to go along with 12 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per contest.

And as Whiteside has gone, the Heat have largely followed suit. They’re a slightly better 3-3 with him in action, but what stands out even more is how much better his stats have been in victories compared to defeats. In wins, Whiteside is putting up 19 points and 13.7 rebounds per game on 60.5 percent shooting whereas in losses he’s only logging 14 points and 10.3 rebounds on 50 percent shooting.

Therefore, it will be critical that Rudy Gobert and Co. keep Whiteside at bay by keeping him off the glass and forcing him into as inefficient of a night as possible. This is surely going to be a tall order, especially considering that Gobert has in many ways struggled of late and Whiteside will likely be looking to prove himself against a player who beat him out in Defensive Player of the Year ranking and All-NBA and All-NBA Defensive honors last year.

Nevertheless, if the Jazz hope to have any shot of winning, they’ll need to overcome the likely chip on Whiteside’s shoulder and hold him in check all night long. The Heat have several other capable players on their roster beside him, but there’s no questioning that he’s been one of their main catalysts this season.