Heat | Power in the Paint

Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen returns to Miami Heat in a big way

 

grichards@MiamiHerald.com

Call him the Birdman, Birdzilla or simply Bird.

The Heat was just happy to have Chris Andersen back on Friday night.

After missing the previous two games because of a left thigh bruise, Andersen didn’t play a whole lot but made his presence felt early in Miami’s 117-92 win over Indiana. The Heat’s Game 6 victory earned the Eastern Conference title and a trip to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year.

“He was pretty angry with me in the fourth quarter,’’ coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He said I was holding him back.’’

Although the Heat was in control for much of Friday’s game, that wasn’t the case early and it was Andersen who helped spark Miami’s first quarter run and open things up.

The Heat led 13-9 when Andersen replaced Chris Bosh with 4:38 left in the first quarter.

Moments later, Andersen’s tip in off a shot from LeBron James put Miami back up four after Lance Stephenson’s three-pointer.

The Heat ended the first on a 9-0 run that started on Andersen’s put-back shot.

“He was fantastic. There was bottled up intensity, anger, energy, all of it,’’ Spoelstra said.

Andersen had five rebounds in his four-plus minutes of work in the opening period and helped Miami outrebound the Pacers for the first time during the series.

Andersen ended the night with nine points and 10 rebounds in 12:35.

“He becomes contagious,’’ said Spoelstra, who called Andersen ‘Bird’ during his pregame press conference.

“He wanted to be out there the past few games, helping his teammates.’’

It wasn’t known if Andersen would play before Friday’s game.

Andersen skipped Friday’s morning shoot around and Spoelstra said Andersen was getting treatment heading into the game. Spoelstra stressed he wanted to make sure Andersen could move the way Miami needed him to.

He looked just fine on Friday.

“He did not want to sit out the first few days,’’ Spoelstra said of Andersen’s thigh injury, one suffered when he and Dwyane Wade collided during Game 3.

“He thought he could go the first day. But he had such limited mobility. We just didn’t think he could play through it. [Friday] he passed the final test but we wanted to limit his minutes. He was explosive, no question about it.’’

Although Miami had been out-rebounded by the Pacers in four of the first five games (Game 3 was a draw) in the conference finals, the insertion of Andersen as well as some strong play by Bosh helped Miami turn that tide Friday.

Bosh definitely turned his game around against the Pacers as the series went on and ended Friday with 25 points and eight rebounds.

“This was definitely the game we wanted to play,’’ Bosh said afterward. “Being on our home court, we wanted to make a statement.’’

Coming into Game 4 when Bosh opened up with a red-hot start by scoring Miami’s first eight points, he hadn’t reached double-digits in scoring in the previous seven postseason games against the Pacers.

Bosh finished things against Indiana with a flourish, scoring 25 points in Game 4 and combining for 45 in the final two games of the series.

Miami out-rebounded the Pacers 37-28 after holding a 23-13 advantage at the half.

As far as Indiana’s bigs went, well, there wasn’t a whole lot to talk about.

Roy Hibbert’s struggles came back to light as the Indiana center was held scoreless until he hit a pair of free throws with 5:02 left in the second. Hibbert, who didn’t score in four postseason games, didn’t get his first field goal until he hit a shot from the top of the key in the final seconds of the first half. The game was already out of hand by then.

Paul George, although he led the Pacers with four rebounds in the opening half, had just one point at halftime after scoring 37 against Miami in Game 5.

Hibbert ended with just eight points and four rebounds. George ended up having a solid second half -- as was the case Wednesday -- and ended with 29 points and a team-high eight boards.

“We fell short of reaching [Miami’s] level,’’ Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “They spread us out. We had some good looks in the first quarter that we didn’t knock down.’’

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