INDIANAPOLIS -- Anthony provides spark off the bench
The suspension of Chris Andersen for Game 6 elevated reserve Joel Anthony to his old role as defensive catalyst off the bench.
Before the game, teammate Dwyane Wade said Anthony was “foaming at the mouth” for the opportunity to play. Anthony certainly made the most of it.
Anthony played almost 29 minutes on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the Heat’s 91-77 loss to the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals. He played a total of 20 minutes spread out over eight postseason games before Saturday. As always, Anthony brought a large dose of energy to the game.
The Heat’s reserve center grabbed twice as many offensive rebounds in his first five minutes of action (four) than Chris Bosh (two) had in the entire series to that point. Anthony had eight rebounds in the first half, trying Pacers center Roy Hibbert for most in the games’ first 24 minutes.
Since the arrival of Andersen in midseason, Anthony’s role on the team has been diminished drastically. Before Saturday’s game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra praised Anthony for accepting his new role as “a consummate professional.
“Everybody is focused on everybody else and he’s the one who had his minutes directly taken,” Spoelstra said. “The conversations have been about so many other people. It’s been a challenge for those guys to sacrifice and we all know their stories and they’re all capable and they would likely play bigger roles on other teams.
“But it’s tough when you’re a guy like Joel and we were an excellent team with him — won a championship with him in that role — and then midseason we add somebody. But he’s a consummate professional. Joel is awesome, and he’s kept himself ready.”
Anthony said taking a backseat to Andersen has been easier thanks to the team’s chemistry. Anthony earned a salary $3.75 million this season. Andersen is on the books for $699,952.
“With this group, it’s really not that bad,” Anthony said. “We have a really tight group and the guys are really well connected, so obviously everyone wants to play but there are only so many minutes to go around. But we’re still close enough as a family that the guys are able to stay mentally in the game.”
Anthony’s highlight of the night came at the end of the first half when he rejected a dunk attempt by Pacers forward Paul George. Spoelstra ran a few steps onto the court after the play and swing his arm in celebration.
One of the ways that Anthony and players such as Mike Miller, Juwan Howard and Rashard Lewis have stayed ready throughout the postseason is a daily pick-up game of three-on-three. On game days, the players compete on the main court inside arenas. On other days, the spirited pick-up games happen in practice gyms.
“This is a different group that we have,” Spoelstra said. “We don’t want to put our veteran players on the shelf and say, ‘OK, just because of your resume, you guys will be ready.’”
After the confrontation between Andersen and Tyler Hansbrough on Thursday, Spoelstra was the first person off the bench in an attempt to calm down Andersen and prevent him from being ejected. Andersen wasn’t ejected from Game 5 but the NBA did suspend him for Game 6. He flew to Indianapolis with the team but didn’t watch the game from inside the arena.
Spoelstra said he had a one-on-one meeting with Andersen about controlling his emotions.
“I had a discussion with him and that’s between him and me,” Spoelstra said.
This and that
• With LeBron James’ 10th point on Saturday, he moved past Scottie Pippen (3,642) for 12th place on the NBA’s all-time postseason scoring list.
• Andersen, on Hansbrough getting under his skin: “It’s been a tough series. It’s been a very strong battle in the paint and a very physical battle all over the floor, so it’s not just Tyler.”