Heat | Chris Andersen

Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen helps Miami Heat reach mountaintop

 

Chris Andersen’s energy and playmaking abilities around the basket in a do-or-die Game 7 helped push the Heat past the Spurs.

abeasley@MiamiHerald.com

Chris Andersen might have turned around Game 7 just by getting off the bench.

With the Heat listless and lost early Thursday night, Erik Spoelstra turned to the Birdman. As the feathered one strode to the scorer’s table, his burgeoning fan club went nuts — and his teammates did the same.

Andersen, the tattooed whirling dervish who goes by Birdman, spurred an 8-1 run with sheer energy, flipping an early five-point deficit into a Heat lead that would be relinquished just once the rest of the half in a 95-88 title-clinching victory.

Andersen finished with three points, four rebounds and a block, but he impacted the game in ways that aren’t reflected on the stat sheet.

Andersen, who didn't play in Games 4 or 5, was forced into full-time duty early because of Chris Bosh’s three first-half fouls. Even when he was on the floor, Bosh was all but invisible, missing all five shots he took in the game.

In Andersen’s 12 first-half minutes, meanwhile, Miami outscored San Antonio by 13 points and took a two-point lead into the half.

His first appearance in the game came at the 3:45 mark of the first quarter. His first imprint on the game came 45 seconds later, blocking Tim Duncan’s shot in the post. A short time later, he cleaned up a missed Mario Chalmers three-pointer for his only bucket of the half.

Then, in the second quarter, Andersen drew a loose-ball foul while battling for an offensive rebound, leading to a Shane Battier three-pointer. His block of Kawhi Leonard later sparked a fast break that resulted in a midrange jumper by Dwyane Wade.

Then, in crunch time, Andersen pulled in two offensive rebounds and drew a charge on Manu Ginobili with Bosh on the bench.

In short, Andersen did all the little things that endeared himself to Heat fans during his brief time in Miami.

A midseason pickup, Andersen hardly lost.

The Heat ripped off a 27-game winning streak shortly after he signed on. The team went 37-3 in regular-season games in which Andersen played, the highest personal winning streak in league history.

And, along the way, he picked up legions of fans — small and large — inspired by his head-to-toe tattoos, mile-high Mohawk and trademark hustle.

But just eight months ago, it was unknown if Andersen would ever play another NBA minute.

Andersen was out of the league when the season began, healing from knee surgery. It wasn’t his first prolonged absence from the game. He was suspended for more than entire season earlier in his career after multiple drug test failures.

But Andersen has apparently cleaned up his act and at age 34 reached the NBA Finals for the first time.

On Thursday night, he did his best to make it count.

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