Chris "Birdman" Andersen Proving to Be Perfect Playoff Pickup for Miami Heat

Sam Richmond@srichmond93Correspondent IMay 11, 2013

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 21: Chris Andersen #11 of the Miami Heat reacts to a play during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks at American Airlines Arena on April 21, 2013 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In the first seven games of the 2013 NBA playoffs, Chris "Birdman" Andersen has averaged just 13.8 minutes per game for the Miami Heat.

For the most part, Miami's rotation has been nine players deep. Among the nine, Birdman's 13.8 minutes ranks last. Yet, despite the limited amount of playing time, Andersen has had a tremendous impact for the Heat in the postseason.

Everyone knows what Andersen can bring to the table: energy, rebounding, defense and a decent offensive game.

And those elements of Andersen's game have been amplified in this postseason. His averages through seven games have ranged from productive to remarkable: 6.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, and he's shot 78.2 percent from the field—yes, 78.2 percent.

Considering Birdman's playing time, those numbers are awfully impressive.

He's been the Heat's best per-minute rebounder, best per-minute shot-blocker and his field-goal percentage obviously leads the team. Andersen has been playing with more energy than ever now that he's in the playoffs with a title-contender, and he has come up with some truly game-changing plays.

His most impactful moment came in Game 2 of Miami's first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks

Miami entered the fourth quarter with just a three-point lead, when Andersen stepped up. His three-point play on a put-back and a foul put the Heat up six. 

But it did more than that: his unwillingness to give up on the play and his "Bird" celebration pumped up the AmericanAirlines crowd and his Heat teammates.

Andersen's play spurred the Heat to a 12-0 run that put the game away.

But that wasn't his only big moment. In Game 1 of that series, he put home an alley-oop in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach. And in a tightly contested Game 3 of the Heat's semifinals matchup against the Chicago Bulls, Birdman grabbed three rebounds (two of them offensive) and scored two big baskets early in the fourth quarter to give Miami some momentum.

Miami has tried to find a center like Andersen throughout the Big Three era.

They finally found him this year, and the discovery couldn't have come at a better time, as this team struggled more than ever on the glass this past season.

But Andersen has helped turn that potentially crippling weakness into much less of an issue. Miami has outrebounded its opponents in six of their seven playoff games. 

Too often throughout the 2012-13 season, the pre-Andersen Heat allowed too many offensive rebounds and second-chance opportunities. In the playoffs, it has been the Heat with the second-chance opportunities, thanks to Andersen. He's grabbing an absurd 4.8 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes. To put in perspective how impressive that is, the Heat's second-best offensive rebounder, Udonis Haslem, has posted 2.4 boards per 36 minutes.

Birdman's physical play on and off the glass has helped toughen up the Heat.  

He has joined Haslem as a sort of an enforcer on Miami. In Game 2 of the Heat's second-round series, when play between LeBron James and Joakim Noah started getting a bit too physical, Andersen had James' back and some words with Noah. 

In Game 3, a scrum started after Nazr Mohammed pushed down LeBron James. Andersen again stuck up for Miami's best player again and began pushing back against Mohammed.

The Heat aren't going to back down from anybody, and that's especially true with Andersen now board.

Birdman has given the Heat everything they could have asked from him and more in the 2013 postseason. That's true from a basketball standpoint, as he's been a two-way asset—and from an intangible standpoint due to the energy he brings to the court.

Considering he's been Miami's ninth man, Andersen's play bodes great for the team's postseason success.


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