Andersen a playoff force for Heat

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Spoelstra said the Heat did its “due diligence” when it came to looking at Andersen’s past, which included being barred from the NBA for more than two years because of substance-abuse issues.

In Miami, he’s become a fan favorite, even though a few months ago he was “huntin’ hogs and livin’ that country boy life” in Texas and Colorado and not thinking about basketball all that much. And when the Pacers talk about how they believe this Heat team is better than the one that ousted them in the second round a year ago, they’re not necessarily speaking about last summer’s addition of Ray Allen.

Instead, it’s Andersen that has captured Pacers coach Frank Vogel’s attention.

“The defense and rebounding is a dramatic difference from what they had in the past two years. It’s a dramatic difference,” Vogel said. “He’s a great screener, he’s a great finisher at the rim offensively. He’s probably the biggest upgrade or difference between last year’s team and this year’s team _ no disrespect to Ray, who’s obviously a Hall of Famer.”

Heat center Chris Bosh said Andersen’s numbers shouldn’t be diminished by the fact that most of his offense comes from close range.

“Finishing is a really underrated part of the game because it’s not always easy,” Bosh said. “Some you’re going to be wide-open, but you still have to be in the right place at the right time.”

Makes sense, since Andersen got brought to the right team at the right time, at least in his estimation.

Andersen turns 35 this summer, but clearly has plenty left in his proverbial tank. It’s believed that the Heat will try to bring him back next season, and Andersen has said he enjoys playing in Miami. (One look at his starring role in the Heat “Harlem Shake” video that’s gotten nearly 45 million YouTube hits shows his comfort level in the locker room, and that was taped just a few weeks after his arrival.)

Any talk about next season _ or next month, for that matter _ will have to wait.

Andersen has never had as good a shot at winning a championship as he does now, and that’s why he’s insisting that there’s nothing on his mind besides helping the Heat find a way to get past the Pacers and back to the NBA Finals.

“It is incredible,” Andersen said of his story, with the twists and turns leading him to where he’s at now. “But at the same time, I’m just trying to stay in the moment, keep my focus on what I need to do and where I need to improve. I know I’m destined for more.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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