The Miami Heat could be without the services of Hassan Whiteside on Thursday after the center missed practice on Wednesday.
Whiteside is officially considered a game-time decision for Miami's game with the Chicago Bulls. The center is battling a right thigh injury and the Heat are known to be cautious with their talent. Every game is critical to Miami in terms of playoff positioning at this juncture, but not at the risk of greater injury.
With Miami playing a back-to-back set on Thursday and Friday, it is likely that Whiteside will sit one of the contests at this point. Miami will need Whiteside's legs fresh when the playoffs begin and playing two quick games on an injured thigh could have longer term effects.
If Whiteside is unable to go on Thursday, it would likely mean an increase in minutes for starter Amar'e Stoudemire as well as Udonis Haslem and Josh McRoberts. Whiteside has been coming off the bench during the entire second half of the season, but has still played the bulk of minutes at center each game.
There is no replacing Whiteside's production for Miami at either end of the court, and his absence would undoubtedly have an impact on the team's chances to win. Whiteside leads the entire NBA in blocks and is averaging a double-double on the season. The 26-year old has been a game-changer for Miami, and can take over games in the blink of an eye.
Whiteside has been a durable player for Miami this year and has been a part of 68 of the team's 77 games played. The center will be a free-agent following the season, and his durability combined with his All-Star level production could result in a max-contract type deal.
Miami currently sits in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with fives games to play. The Heat are one game up on the Charlotte Hornets, and only a half-game back of the third seed. Finishing in the top-four will give Miami home-court advantage in the first round. The Heat are 26-13 at home this year as compared to 19-19 on the road.
Thursday's game against the Bulls in Miami will tip-off at 8:00 p.m.