Whiteside, Wade lead Heat past 76ers 112-102
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Dwyane Wade thinks Hassan Whiteside is a changed man since the All-Star break.
The Miami Heat are looking like a changed team, too.
Whiteside had 19 points and 19 rebounds, Wade scored 21 points and the Heat beat the Philadelphia 76ers 112-102 on Friday night for their fourth straight win.
The Heat improved to 7-2 since losing Chris Bosh to a blood clot in his calf, in large part due to the emergence of Whiteside. The 7-footer is averaging 18.5 points and 15.5 rebounds per game over the last eight contests after a far more uneven first few months of the season.
''It's been impressive,'' Wade said. ''Credit is due to him. After the All-Star break, he came back a different person on the basketball floor. He's really focused on being dominant night in and night out.''
Goran Dragic added 15 points and 11 assists for the Heat. Luol Deng scored 13 points and Joe Johnson, Amar'e Stoudemire and Gerald Green had 12 points each.
The Heat are 4-0 since signing Johnson after the seven-time All-Star agreed to a buyout with the Brooklyn Nets.
''There was a lot of uncertainty with what our team's dealt with this year,'' Wade said. ''But I think adding a player like Joe and with guys coming out of the All-Star break having to play without Chris has really built the confidence in everyone. And it's all come together.''
Ish Smith had 26 points, eight rebounds and five assists and Robert Covington scored 25 points for the depleted 76ers, who were missing several key players. Philadelphia has lost 11 straight.
Elton Brand made his first appearance this season after coming out of retirement to sign with the Sixers on Jan. 4. He played for the first time since May 20, 2015, when he was on the Atlanta Hawks. The 36-year-old forward came in to start the second quarter and finished with eight points and four rebounds in 13 minutes, showing some nice range with a few spot-up jumpers.
''He's amazing to me because I didn't know what to expect,'' Sixers coach Brett Brown said. ''In a weird way, that was exciting for me to have a touch and taste of Elton Brand, seeing him for the first time, coaching him truly, for the first time in a game. I thought he was excellent.''
Hollis Thompson added 14 points for Philadelphia but shot just 5 for 17 from the field.
The Sixers were playing without top big men Jahlil Okafor (shin) and Nerlens Noel (knee). Nick Stauskas and Kendall Marshall were also held out due to illnesses.
Trailing by 10 with 7:30 left in the third quarter, the undermanned Sixers scored the next 13 points to take a 72-69 lead. But Miami responded with a quick 11-1 run of its own to go back ahead 80-73 with 2:19 left in the third quarter.
The Heat never trailed again, opening up a 104-88 lead with 4:37 left after Green drilled two 3-pointers in less than 2 minutes.
During his recent hot streak, Whiteside has been lights out from the free-throw line, shooting 28 for 30 over the last six games.
His reasoning for that?
''You know when it's a rainy day and you get hot chocolate and you put a nice movie on and you tuck yourself in?'' Whiteside said. ''That's how comfortable I feel at the free-throw line.''
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra admitted it's a unique situation to play the Sixers again back in Miami in just two days, but he thinks it will be a good test for his team.
''We've had a lot of different challenges,'' he said. ''We've had back-to-backs, we've had adversity, we've had road trips - and now it's dealing with the same team 48 hours later, preparing for them and coming with another aggressive mindset. I think it will be a good challenge for us.''
Heat: Miami has won 25 of its last 29 games vs. Philadelphia. ... Stoudemire left in the first quarter with a head laceration but returned.
76ers: On the same night Brand made his debut for the Sixers, Baron Davis played his first game for Philly's D-League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers. Brand and Davis were both top three picks in the 1999 Draft. ... Christian Wood was called up from the 87ers before the game and signed to a 10-day contract by Philadelphia. ... Assistant coach Chris Babcock just returned from an eight-day trip to see Dario Saric, who was acquired by the Sixers during the 2014 NBA draft but has been playing in Turkey ever since. Coach Brett Brown said he has a ''gut feeling'' Saric will suit up for the Sixers next season.
Heat: Host the 76ers on Sunday night.
76ers: Visit the Heat on Sunday night.