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Why The Birdman Is the Key to the Finals

photo courtesy of nba.com

We all know about the Big Three in Miami, but as good as James, Wade, and Bosh are, they cannot win a series, nevertheless a championship, without the help of their role players. The Big Three will be expected to fill up the stat sheet and drive Miami's offense and defense, but after Mike Miller's 7 three-pointers in the Heat's title-clinching game last June, it seems safe to say that when the role players are contributing, the Heat are almost unstoppable.

Chalmers, Allen, Cole, and Haslem will all have their impacts on the game, but no one in a Heat jersey, other than the Big Three, can change an entire series the way Chris Andersen can. 

He is Miami's X-factor.

Since Andersen joined the team on consecutive 10-day contracts in January, the Heat has gone 52-7. He has brought energy and toughness to this Heat team that sometimes seemed a little lackluster. Even at 34 years old, he never takes a play off, goes after every rebound, even collecting a couple blocks a game.

Offensively, the Birdman was just what the Heat needed: an efficient big man that can catch and finish. Andersen shot 89% from the field in the Conference Finals, and was perfect in all but one game. Of course, most of his shots are wide open layups or dunks off of assists from James or Wade, but without Andersen, Miami does not even have a reliable finisher down low, as we saw with Joel Anthony in Game 6. Andersen's efforts on the offensive glass has also been huge for the Heat, and he even earned a few second-chance points.

Miami realized how much they missed the Birdman's presence in the paint in Game 6, when Andersen was out from a suspension from the league for shoving Tyler Hansborough. The Heat got bullied in the paint by Roy Hibbert and the Pacers, giving up 44 points in the paint to Miami's 22, a 22 point difference. In Game 7, with Birdman's return, the Heat outscored the Pacers in the paint for the first three quarters until garbage-time players tied up that category at 30 apiece.

If Andersen can play good defense on Duncan, grab rebounds, score easy points, and provide crucial energy in the Finals, the Heat will have a much better chance of beating the Spurs. The Heat need the Birdman to soar, and it seems like he is ready.

It is up to the Spurs to stop him from flying the trophy back to Miami.

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