Chris “Birdman” Andersen had some of his finest moments in a Heat uniform against the Pacers in the 2013 and 2014 Eastern Conference Finals.
There was no repeat on Monday. With Hassan Whiteside inactive with a sore right knee, the 37-year-old center earned his first start of the season, but had a rough night.
He played the opening 4:40 of the first quarter before picking up three quick fouls and was sent to the bench for the remainder of the half. And while Andersen returned to the court to begin the third quarter, head coach Erik Spoelstra pulled him for forward Justise Winslow with 6:45 left in the quarter.
Andersen never returned and finished with two points and two rebounds in just under 10 minutes of play. He was minus-24 on the floor.
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“The starting lineup had really been starting to build some steam and I wanted to get the closest facsimile to how those guys are used to playing,” he said of why he started Andersen, a rebounder and defensive stopper in Whiteside’s place. “I didn’t want to change the rotation. I wanted to keep it as much as intact where both units could feel somewhat comfortable.”
The 6-foot-10 center played a substantial role for the Heat during its 2013 championship run. Though Andersen averaged only 6.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game during the playoffs, his physicality was particularly helpful in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals against the Pacers. He made similar contributions during the 2014 playoffs as he averaged 5.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
While Andersen started 20 games last season – his first starts as a Heat player – he averaged only 4.8 minutes per game ahead of Monday’s contest.