The big question heading into Game 2 for the Bucks was if they could find a way to get somebody other than Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings to score points and provide a lift.
Milwaukee figured it out. The Bucks’ starting frontcourt of Luc Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders became problematic for the Miami Heat on Tuesday.
The issue in Game 2 for the Bucks? They still had no answer for the Birdman.
Chris Andersen, Miami’s 6-10, 245-pound, tattooed and colorful Energizer Bunny, played just a little more than 12 minutes. But he made them impactful, helping turn a mere three-point Heat lead entering the fourth quarter into double digits as Miami cruised to a 98-86 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“Chris has done this two games in a row now where he has come into the game and had an impact,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “He plays with a lot of energy and was joined by Norris Cole [on Tuesday]. I wouldn’t say it caught us by surprise, but both games there was a four-, five-, six-minute stretch where we let the game get away from us and [Andersen] was part of both runs.”
Andersen scored five of the Heat’s points in a 12-0 run to open the fourth quarter and then added a tip-in to make it 83-69 with 8:06 left.
His best sequence came on the opening possession of the fourth quarter. Anderson missed a shot close to the basket, and LeBron James rebounded it and missed another shot. Anderson didn’t stop fighting, though, grabbing another rebound and another before finally laying it in and drawing a foul. Andersen then went to free throw line and completed the three-point play.
Andersen, who had just two points and one rebound in seven minutes over the first three quarters, left the game with 6:59 to play. After pouring in 10 points and seven boards in a Game 1 win, he finished with 10 points, six rebounds and a block in Game 2. But it was the energy he brought once again that was his biggest contribution.
“I wasn’t keeping count,” Andersen said of his eight fourth-quarter points. “I just go out there and provided energy. I think it was Wade who provided the energy spark with that dunk he did. I just followed his footsteps — which is hard.”
The Bucks had done a good job keeping the game close until then. In Game 1, the Bucks’ starting frontcourt went a combined 6 of 18 from the field for 14 points. Through the first three quarters of the game Tuesday, Mbah Moute (six points), Ilyasova (16) and Sanders (14) helped the Bucks score 36 points in the paint on 18-of-30 shooting. Milwaukee scored just four points in the paint in the fourth quarter.
Ilyasova, who was 1 of 7 from the field for two points in Game 1, started 5 of 8 from the field Tuesday with 12 first-quarter points. He finished with a team-leading 21 points and six rebounds. Sanders, held to six points and five rebounds in 18 minutes in Game 1, finished with 14 points and six rebounds Tuesday.
Andersen drew two quick fouls in the first quarter and quickly was subbed out. But he didn’t let his rough start bother him, scoring on a reverse dunk in the second quarter and blocking a shot before spreading his arms like wings for the sellout crowd of 20,097 to enjoy.
“We’ve got to have our fans behind us, man,” Andersen said.
“When they get this place roaring, I mean it sends shockwaves through you. That’s just the electricity they’re sending through us — and we answer to it.”