The two most obvious storylines to emerge from Game 1’s 100-87 Heat victory didn’t involve any of the Miami superstars. It involved the peskiness of the Milwaukee backcourt (able to stay around just long enough to be noticed, before the Heat went into hyper-drive and blew them out) and the full-powered show of force, brought by the Heat bench.
The Heat bench wasn’t just a liability last year, it was a borderline joke. The roster was as top-heavy as anything you’ll ever see, and was constructed in such a way as to require the starting five to play the maximum amount of minutes. Anything extra, especially from any big men, was gravy. They rarely contributed much, and when they did, it was often in a game of little importance. In Game 1, however, Miami got 43 points from their reserves, including 20 from Ray Allen and a 10-point/seven-rebound output from Chris Andersen who squeezed as much activity out of 16 minutes as seemingly possible.
Andersen joined the team on January 20th, and since that date, the team has gone 39 and 3. So we are talking intangibles, obviously, but everyone uses the term “intangible” when they try to convey something extraordinarily regular. People throw it around like cornball, corporate-speak phrases like “team-building and “cost analysis restructuring.” That’s the thing about dudes who bring what Andersen brings to the table; you don’t really know what it is, but once you see it, you realize that you didn’t have it previously and now you wonder if you could even do without it. The size, quickness, shot-blocking and rebounding, that Andersen brings has become a legit factor in how they play.
For Andersen, who had become a forgotten footnote, to end up contributing to a team as good as the Heat, is both a testament to his work ethic and Miami’s scouting department. Not having Andersen wouldn’t have altered the ring-or-bust high stakes for this team, but having him makes the squad that much more powerful. Which, for a team as talented as Miami, seems blatantly unfair.