It is hard to find a better acquisition made during this NBA season then the Miami Heat's signing of Chris Andersen on January 20th. Andersen was a major contributor for Miami throughout their dominance in the second half of the regular season and has been a major contributor for them in the playoffs.
The Birdman, as Andersen is better known, has been a consistent source of energy, rebounding and defense for the Heat. If the Heat could have created a player that fit in perfectly with their team and addressed a major need for their star studded lineup, that player would have been very similar to Chris Andersen.
In the playoffs, Andersen has been particularly impressive though. He is averaging seven points and four rebounds for the Heat while only averaging 15 minutes of playing time. From the floor, Andersen is shooting it at an astonishing 86 percent, and remarkably has made 19 of his last 19 shots dating back to the final game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Chicago Bulls.
Defensively, Andersen has been very impressive as well. He ranks 14th in the playoffs in blocks with 1.36 per game, but you have to take into account that he is also only playing an average of 15 minutes each game.
When you look at Andersen's blocks per 48 minutes of play and look at guys who are averaging at least ten minutes a game in the postseason, Andersen ranks second with 4.24 blocks per 48 minutes. That number trails only Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder who averaged 4.33 blocks per 48 minutes during this postseason.
On Saturday night the Heat will look to close out the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers, but they will have to do so without the services of Andersen who is serving a one game suspension for committing a flagrant foul against Tyler Hansbrough in Game 5 of the series.
Saturday night's game was already expected to be very difficult for the Heat. At home and facing elimination the Pacers will be desperately fighting to see their season live at least until Monday night in Miami.
Will the Heat be up for the challenge?
Can they finish off Indiana without Chris Andersen in the lineup?
Absolutely they can, but the biggest key will be the play of Chris Bosh.
Bosh has not played very well over the last two games of this series. He was dealing with a minor ankle injury throughout all of Game 5, but his combined 14 points and eight rebounds over the last two games will not be enough to help the Heat win tonight.
Miami needs a big game from Bosh, not just offensively, but defensively as well. They need him to do whatever he can to help contain Indiana big man Roy Hibbert inside. They need him to make some timely shots. Most importantly though, the Miami Heat need Chris Bosh to do whatever it takes to pull down timely rebounds and limit second chance opportunities for the Heat.
Obviously everyone is going to have to be at the top of their game tonight against Indiana. LeBron will need to have a big game, Wade will need a good game, guys like Chalmers, Haslem and Allen will need to hit timely shots and play solid defensively.
Chris Bosh is the biggest X-factor though. If he can play his best game of the playoffs in Game 6 and help replace the loss of Chris Andersen, the Miami Heat will be on their way to their third straight trip to the NBA Finals.