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Birdman soars as Greg Oden takes small steps

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Updated 12 months ago on
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Rare is the player with the full-body tattoo, Mohawk haircut and scraggly beard who goes overlooked.

Then again, just about everything about Chris Andersen is unique, including currently being overshadowed by a teammate who hardly plays.

Yet Tuesday, no sooner had the Miami Heat completed their 93-86 victory over the Boston Celtics then the talk turned to fellow Heat center Greg Oden, who played all of 5 minutes, 34 seconds in the victory and closed with two points and one rebound.

Granted it was Oden’s Heat debut at AmericanAirlines Arena and only his third game back after sitting out more than four seasons due to a variety of devastating injuries. But if it wasn’t for Andersen, there may not have been a victory.

In one of his best efforts of the season, the colorful player known as Birdman closed with 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting and seven rebounds in 25 minutes as the first player off the bench. His board work was essential, with the Heat still outrebounded 46-33.

“We got beat up on the glass,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of his team’s rebounding beyond Birdman. “He was fantastic, multiple efforts, for the most part disciplined defensively with our schemes.

“He was rock solid for the majority of the game. And then those multiple efforts, he saves some possessions and he does what only a high-energy, high-motor guy can do.”

It was Andersen’s second game back after missing three with a bruised right knee, an injury that he said lingers.

“I think playing with pain actually makes me play better,” he said. “It’s just who I am and it’s just been my style of play since I got into the league. I can’t let a little injury like that set me back. I need to be on that court, helping them rebound.”

In fact, he said it was a blow to the face early in the game, after a pump fake, that got his head in the game, “It woke me up.”

He was revving from there.

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