Hassan Whiteside had just topped off a terrific night at the defensive end of the court by converting a putback basket with 8.8 seconds to play that gave the Trail Blazers a four-point lead and pretty much ensured a win over the Chicago Bulls Friday night in Moda Center.
And he hadn't even gotten to midcourt after a Chicago timeout before Carmelo Anthony stopped him and had a few words with him.
What did he say?
"That's what we need. Big play, big boy," Whiteside said after the game.
Anthony adds so much to this team. He knows his team needs Whiteside to play big and perform in the middle and wanted to reinforce a great performance,
"Hassan had a hell of a game down there anchoring us," Anthony said. So he told Whiteside, "'Sometimes that's what we're going to need. To do that.' We know whose hands the ball is going to be in at the end of the game – Dame and CJ. Everybody else has to find some other ways to get wins. We won the game tonight with that tip-in.
"That's special to know he's holding the paint down like that. Ten or 11 blocks and rebounding the way he's doing. We are going to continue to need that,
"I've never seen that before and I've played with some great shotblockers. Tyson Chandler was a great shotblocker. Marcus Camby was a great shotblocker. But I've NEVER seen a guy get 10 blocked shots in a game."
So, it was important to make sure he gave credit where – and when – credit was due.
"I think you have to praise people in times right at that moment. Don't wait until you get to the locker room. We all need encouragement at times. We're going to need that from him. If he can get down there and win games with a putback like that, it means a lot."
The Bulls play a drive-and-kick game and opened the game challenging Whiteside at the rim. Obviously, he met that challenge head-on – he had four blocks in the first quarter and six by halftime.
"Those are my favorite teams, teams that just want to attack me," he said. "There are two kinds of teams, those who avoid me at all costs and the ones that attack me. I love it."
Whiteside he told his teammates not to get too aggressive on players driving to the basket.
"Guys weren't fouling on layups," he said. "I told the guys, I'm insurance. When they go for a layup, I'm going to be there. I might not get them all, but I'm going to do my best."
At the end of the night he finished with 15 rebounds, a steal and eight points to go with the 10 blocks. He had a rough shooting night or he would have had his fifth career triple-double. He missed all three of his free throws, which is shocking because he's been near 80 percent at the line for a good part of this season, and was 4-11 from the floor.
The Blazers got all but nine of their points from their starters, as the Portland bench was outscored 25-9. The Blazer reserves were just 3-13 from the field and missed all six three-pointers they took.
Anthony had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Rodney Hood scored 19 while McCollum and Lillard combined for 48. Lillard put this game in Whiteside's win column.
"I mean, he had a great, great defensive performance," Lillard said. "I thought it was pretty much the difference in the game for us. If they didn't change, he probably would have blocked 15. But that's the version of him that we need to be the team that we planned on being at the start of the year.
"I think he played like he was trying to impact the game in the way that we know he can. I think it was obvious to everybody. He was blocking floaters – that's a tough shot to block and he's getting to floaters. He's coming from the weak side, vertically. He did it in every way you could think of for a rim protector. That was big time,"
Portland won its third straight game – the first three-game win streak of the season and had 20 assists, the ninth straight game of at least 20.
Whiteside's 10 blocks broke the team record of nine, held by Bill Walton, Theo Ratliff, Mychal Thompson and Joel Przybilla.
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