A thigh injury suffered in the Eastern Conference Finals might be reducing the 35-year-old’s effectiveness, but there aren’t many Heat players that can scavenge rebounds from him after LeBron James and Chris Bosh. He simply hasn’t been playing well, and San Antonio has taken advantage of this.
Spurs have really bullied Chris Andersen. Bird doesn't have the strongest of bases (bird legs, of course).— Israel Gutierrez (@IzzyESPN) June 9, 2014
An uninspiring Andersen leads to easy buckets and boards for San Antonio’s towering frontcourt of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Miami’s defense is struggling with their size and strength.
In Game 2, Duncan and Splitter combined for 21 boards, eight of which were offensive rebounds.
Miami is significantly better when Andersen is at his best. He gives the team an athletic post defender that can be effective in pick-and-rolls on offense. In the Heat’s Game 6 win in Eastern Conference Finals, Andersen scored nine points and added 10 rebounds in just 13 minutes on the court.
When Andersen plays like he did in that Game 6, he can be a nuisance for any player in the paint.
In Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Andersen swatted away Boris Diaw's shot with ease, showing he still has something left in the tank:
If Andersen can't make plays like that, Miami turns into LeBron and his band of jump-shooters. That just makes the Spurs’ defensive assignments much easier.
Andersen might return to his old self by Game 3, as head coach Erik Spoelstra is positive about his health and impact throughout the rest of the Finals.
“He actually looked probably his best yesterday in practice,” Spoelstra told Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk. “So we will see. You know, it was a rough week for him, but he’s getting better each day.”
But if Andersen continues to play poorly, the Heat could be in trouble with their thin frontcourt.
Although Bosh and Rashard Lewis play heavy minutes, they are both perimeter big men that rarely produce their points in the paint. Udonis Haslem, once an impactful starter at power forward, provides little at this stage in his career.
Miami has plenty of shooters, along with the best basketball player in the world, but it doesn't have a big man that lives in the paint behind Andersen.
If Andersen can’t improve upon the last two games, Duncan and the Spurs will continue to pile up easy rebounds—and possibly another championship.