Although the Miami Heat managed to win a nail biter in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, it took colossal efforts from both LeBron James and Chris Bosh (with little help from anyone else) to do so. One of the San Antonio Spurs‘ biggest advantages thus far in this series has been the stellar play of their second unit. Manu Ginobli, Boris Diaw and even Marco Bellineli have all made solid impacts throughout the first two games, while the Heat’s bench has sputtered out of the gate.
One of the Heat’s biggest advantages off the bench up until the Finals was Chris Andersen. The Heat’s energetic secondary center was playing at a very productive pace throughout the first three rounds, even averaging 7.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, while shooting 75 percent from the field in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. A deep thigh bruise injury that sidelined Andersen through Game 4 and Game 5 of the ECF seems to be having lingering effects, and has hampered his efficiency throughout these first two game of the Finals.
The Heat absolutely need Andersen at his very best to win this series and claim their third straight title. Playing against the Spur’s frontcourt of Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw requires some size underneath the rim defensively, and Andersen is one of the Heat’s best frontcourt players (outside of Bosh).
The lack of explosiveness from Andersen can be seen in his shot blocking and points averages through the first two games. One positive sign of his recovery is the nine rebounds he brought down in Game 2 while playing 24 minutes, mostly during crunch time in the fourth quarter.
The most recent report out of the Heat camp is that Andersen sat out of practice on Monday, most likely to rest his bruised thigh. The Heat will need Birdman at near 100 percent if they are going to pull out a win in Game 3 of the Finals. His production off the bench is vital in keeping the Heat’s offense flowing, especially when James is on the bench. His size also is a deterrent for the Spurs’ frontcourt offense that runs through the post, which has been one of the Heat’s biggest defensive weaknesses in this series.
If the Heat manage to win Game 3 at home, it will not only be due to the combined efforts of the Big Three, but it will also be due to Andersen’s energy and production off the bench for the second unit.