For the 145th time since they joined forces in Miami, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh finished as the Heat’s top three scorers.
For the first time in the 2013 calendar year, the fourth-leading scorer – Chris Andersen – scored more than 15 points.
It’s been much less of a concern that many expected when the Big Three era began in Miami, but the Heat sometimes have a tendency to watch LeBron, Wade and Bosh work. Some of that is smart basketball. When three superstars are playing well, it’s often best for role players to stay out of the way. It’s also natural for teammates to marvel at the greatness of those three.
But occasionally,a fourth player steps up in those situations and makes the Heat even better.
Usually, the same type of player scores well when LeBron, Wade and Bosh are leading the way – outside shooters. They use the attention the superstars attract to find space and get clean looks. Prior to tonight, a Heat player scored more than 15 points in just nine of the 144 games LeBron, Wade and Bosh led the team in scoring.
Ray Allen accounted for four of those games, shooting 2-of-3, 3-of-5, 3-of-5, and 3-of-4 on 3-pointers. Mario Chalmers had two of them, shooting 2-of-7 and and 4-of-4 on 3-pointers. Carlos Arroyo (3-of-4 on 3-pointers) and Mike Bibby (5-of-5 on 3-pointers) also added one. Udonis Haslem added another without making a 3-pointer, but he was clearly the exception.
Andersen – who scored 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting in the Heat’s 103-102 win over the Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference – certainly bucked the trend tonight. Yet, like the 3-point shooters, his points were clearly the result of the Big Three clicking.
Six of Andersen’s shots were assisted, three by LeBron and two by Wade, and Anderson’s other basket came on a Kobe assist from LeBron in the purest sense. LeBron drove and attracted help defense near the basket, leaving a clear tip-in for Andersen.
The Heat already had the 3-point shooters – players like Allen, Shane Battier, Chalmers, Mike Miller and Rashard Lewis – to fit around the Big Three. But Andersen, an active player who finds space and elevates quickly near the rim, provides another element.
Not only did Andersen’s 16 points in 18 minutes rate as Miami’s best scoring rate tonight, he broke the franchise record for shots without a miss in a playoff game (previously held by Alonzo Mourning, who went 6-for-6).
Add plus defense – Andersen had three blocks and a steal, though David West (26 points) had a couple nice moments against him – and Andersen is making a real difference for the Heat.
Nobody will forget who Miami’s Big Three are. But Andersen is becoming a very nice fourth piece.