With all guns blazing in Game 1 of their second round bout with the Brooklyn Nets, the Miami Heat can little afford to lose Chris Andersen to a right knee contusion. The big man, who does a splendid job of patrolling the paint for garbage points and runaway opponents, missed most of Game 1’s fourth quarter due to the strain. Not that it mattered as the Heat still dined on the bones of a visibly tired Nets team. Andersen knows that he’s an important cog of the Heat’s success as he stated unequivocally, “You’re going to need a body bag to keep me from playing [in Game 2].” Which leaves no doubt as to whether he’s the type of guy you want following you into battle.
Miami’s coaching staff doesn’t quite share his optimism, however. In their eyes, they would rather he wait to play when the Heat return to home court Saturday. Erik Spoelstra reminded everyone that Andersen remains day-to-day and that he won’t take the court tonight unless trainers allow it.
As ESPN reports, Spoelstra doesn’t determine a Miami Heat’s active status based on their own medical opinions. Rightfully so. Warriors, as it turns out, tend to lie about the gravity of an injury. As Spoelstra tells it, “all of our guys, you ask them immediately after the injury, ‘Hey, I’m fine.”‘ For a guy of Andersen’s size, especially, a right knee contusion can lead to bigger health problems down the road if not rested. Something the Heat can’t afford if they expect to take all comers in the NBA Finals.
Most eyes are focused on the Heat’s rivalry with Pierce and Garnett, at times, justifiably so. But Andersen serves as a good counter to Brooklyn’s size in the interior where post-up players like Andray Blatche and the Nets’ own energy big man Mason Plumlee can contribute in bunches. Both played rather flat in Game 1, combining for only seven rebounds and six points, but should be due a big game down the stretch. This will likely be a six or seven-game series, after all.
Miami staff are certainly in a precarious situation as, despite the pummeling in Game 1, haven’t secured their homecourt advantage until they take Game 2 tonight. Without Andersen, who quadrupled Brooklyn’s block total by himself, they’ll have a harder time of fencing off a Nets team with a very good perimeter game from the paint, as they’ll surely be more aggressive this time around. But 1,000 percent certainty is no humble proclamation. Miami’s Birdman isn’t going to let a clipped wing stop him from getting the job done.