Heat notebook

Miami Heat’s Chris Andersen free to fly inside his ‘bird box’

 
WEB VOTE Who was the biggest surprise in the Heat’s victory in Game 3?

jgoodman@MiamiHerald.com

Chris Andersen coined a phrase Monday that will go down in Heat lore if it wins another championship.

While describing his role on the team and deflecting praise for his current run of offensive perfection, Andersen referred to the area on the baseline where he stands during half-court sets as the “bird box.”

From the “bird box,” Andersen has created an efficient secondary offensive option for the Heat’s slashing attackers.

Andersen, whose nickname is “Birdman,” is 16 of 16 from the field dating back to the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“I just do what I do, man,” Andersen said. “I don’t really think about how many shots I’ve made in a row or how good I am. I just continue to do what I do, and that’s come off the bench and bring defense and energy, run the floor, get to my spots.

“If LeBron calls me up, I’ll come up. If not, I’ll stay in the bird box.”

Andersen, who is 13 of 13 from the field in the Eastern Conference finals, was 4 of 4 from the field in Game 3 to go along with nine rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes of action. Coach Erik Spoelstra emphasized on Monday after his team’s practice that the Heat never runs plays designed specifically for Andersen and that his points have come exclusively in the flow of the team’s offense.

“I’m getting the basketball around the rim,” Andersen said. “If I can’t make it a foot away from the basket, I shouldn’t be playing this sport.”

He might make scoring look easy, but some of Andersen’s baskets during his streak of field goals without a miss have been anything but gimmies. His coordination on reverse layups is a display of elite athleticism for a big man, and his ability to consistently catch hard passes in traffic is something the Heat lacked last season.

“Offensively, he knows how to get to open spots when [defenders] come to help off of our attackers, and that’s a skill we value,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a skill to be able to catch, find the rim and finish versus great defenses in this league. He has the athletic ability, the awareness and the touch to be able to do it and he does it without having to throw him the ball in the post.”

Spoelstra pointed out that Andersen’s skill set is “a different game and with other teams it might not be the perfect fit. With us, we think it is. Like Joel Anthony, we view [Andersen] as a perfect fit with us, very similar-type dynamic. It might not be the perfect fit with somebody else.”

Of course, Andersen gives all credit to the Heat’s ball handlers, who he says “always make the right decisions.” And, of course, Andersen had special praise for LeBron James, who he called “un-human.”

“I’m telling you,” Andersen said. “He makes the game so much easier for everybody.”

Points in the paint

The Heat outscored Indiana 52-36 in paint points in Game 3. Getting into the paint was a point of emphasis for Spoelstra, who indicated that his players settled too often for jumpers in Game 2. In Game 3, James went to work early in the paint, backing down defender Paul George and using size to his advantage.

“He was very patient and didn’t settle and got to positions where he wanted to go, so we’ll have to see how they defend that the next game,” Spoelstra said.

For Game 4, there is an expectation that the Pacers will counter James’ size inside with a return to physical play.

“I don’t think we played with any force defensively, especially early,” Indiana forward David West said. “We let Paul down in regard to letting LeBron get four, five, six dribbles and I don’t there’s a guy in the NBA who you can guard if you give him that many dribbles.”

Stop the flop

Pacers center Roy Hibbert said that the NBA has done little to curb flopping in the league despite fining players this season for feigning fouls.

“People flop all the time. It’s sad to say,” Hibbert said. “Not just against the Heat. Throughout the whole season, we’re making a substantial amount of money and people just do it anyway and they don’t mind getting fined.”

Said Dwayne Wade: “It happens, but we wouldn’t have no NBA possibly if they got rid of all the flopping.”

Wade on Game 4: “We came up here to win two games. We didn’t come up here to split or to get home-court back. We took care of one and now this game probably will be one of the toughest games of this series. If any team is going to be prepared for what we’re going to see, it’s going to be us, but that doesn’t guarantee us anything. We have to go out and play a helluva ballgame against a team that’s going to be very hungry.”

• Pacers forward Paul George called winning Game 4 “mandatory.”

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