Bird told Indianapolis Star beat writer Mike Wells that his team went “soft” in Game 5, which is a curious choice of words to say the least. Did Bird want the team’s self-described “smashmouth” style of play to become “smash-face?”
Because Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman certainly played smash-face basketball, and the opinion here is that both will be sitting out Game 6 in Indiana on Thursday night (and Pittman might even draw a much longer punishment for an elbow to Lance Stephenson that was delivered with more vicious intent than the one Metta World Peace leveled James Harden with in the next-to-last game of the regular season.)
In case you missed it, here is video of the two fouls in question.
Both fouls seem to fit the definition of what constitutes a “flagrant-2″ foul, and if the league office treats Haslem and Pittman with the same standard they treated Metta, the Heat will be playing with 10 guys in uniform in Game 6.
But even if that is the case, if those 10 Heat players perform with as much precision as Miami displayed in Game 5, we’re probably looking at a closeout game.
Miami outscored Indiana 22-2 on fast-break points and shot an otherworldly 61.4 percent (Boxscore here.)
They didn’t get 70 combined points from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as they did in Game 4, but their 58 was plenty. The difference in Game 5 was that Miami was getting contributions from all over, beginning with Shane Battier’s early flurry of 3-pointers and continuing with the aggression Mario Chalmers showed on the boards, grabbing a team-high 11 rebounds (more than every single player in the game with the exception of Roy Hibbert, who had 12 in 27 1/2 minutes.)
Sometimes you just get beat by a better team, and that was certainly the case for the Pacers in Game 5.
The question for Game 6 now becomes: How will Indiana retaliate? Will they let their elbows do the talking, or will they show some resilience through their overall effort level?
When the boss calls you soft, it’s difficult to know exactly how to respond.
From Kelly Dwyre of Yahoo Sports: “What follows here is where we start wondering what, exactly, the NBA legend wanted his Pacers to do. Should he have expected the team and coach Frank Vogel to improve upon the squad’s unimpressive offensive showing in the second half of Sunday’s Game 4? To come out and show some patience as the Heat swung correctly, fronted the post, and put the onus on the Pacers players to both make shots and create plays? Did he expect his team to not be out-rebounded by 14 to a Heat crew that has issues on the glass? Or to attempt to take hits in transition as a way of getting to the free throw line? Or maybe run the Heat off of the three-point line as they sent up some long bombs once the game was long decided in the fourth quarter? Or did he want the team to respond, as Miami “responded,” to the Heat’s vicious flagrant fouls? Because that would have been stupid, if we’re honest; and Bird’s take would have come off as more of a response of a frustrated fan and team employee and boss and someone who cares quite a bit in the wake of an embarrassing loss that he had to sit through in public amongst Miami fans. And not the response of someone who had really thought things through. … The Pacers didn’t exactly have a lot of live bodies to start wielding elbows that could get them suspended for Game 6, or at the very least ejected in Game 5. Did he want Paul George, with Danny Granger in the locker room with a sprained ankle, to take a shot? Or Roy Hibbert, with David West nursing a sprained knee, to risk suspension as things escalated? Or Hansbrough or Lou Amundson, who will be relied upon as much as ever in Game 6, to risk punishments handed out by a sometimes-emotional NBA front office? Were one of the team’s several undersized guards? George Hill, Darren Collison, and Leandro Barbosa were supposed to lay wood? This is why we wonder if Bird was only referring to the team’s style of play. Which even, to us, seems slightly off. Because the Pacers didn’t exactly play soft in Game 5, but they did play (sorry) stupidly at times. … The Pacers, to these non-Hall of Fame eyes, screwed a lot of things up in Game 5. But playing “soft” didn’t appear to have much to do with any part of that eventual 32-point deficit.
Aside from their team president’s perplexing choice of words, the Pacers came out of Game 5 with another concern: Granger’s ankle.
We already have learned that Granger can flap his gums with the best of ‘em.
But can he play on a gimpy leg?
From Wells in the Indianapolis Star: “The Pacers lost forward Danny Granger for a short time late in the first half against the Miami Heat. They started falling apart. The Pacers lost him for good 3 minutes and 11 seconds into the third quarter. They crumbled. What was a close game with Granger on the court turned into a laugher, with LeBron James (30 points) and Dwyane Wade (28) starring in Miami’s easy 115-83 victory over the Pacers at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday. “We weren’t prepared for Danny to go down,” Pacers guard Paul George said. “He did and we have to be ready for that. We preach togetherness all year long, and tonight was a perfect way to show togetherness and we didn’t do so.” The Heat, who once trailed in the series, can put an end to the Pacers’ season and take another step toward the NBA Finals with a victory Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Miami leads the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series 3-2. The Pacers may have to go one more game without Granger. The Pacers’ leading scorer left the arena in a walking boot and is day-to-day with a sprained left ankle. ”I have no idea,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said when asked if he thinks he’ll have Granger for Game 6. “We’ll prepare a plan for him and we’ll prepare for without him.” Granger came down on James’ foot after attempting a 3-pointer in front of Miami’s bench with less than 3 minutes left in the first half. He lay on the ground momentarily before hobbling to the locker room. Granger opened the third quarter in the lineup before the Pacers shut him down when he wrapped up James on a drive to the basket. ”I don’t see a circumstance where I wouldn’t play (Thursday),” Granger said.
So we go into Game 6 with two key questions: How will the Pacers respond to being called soft? And will the Heat bring a closeout mindset that will make up for the expected loss of two big men, Haslem and Pittman?
To the latter query, it may be a matter of whatever secret cinematic motivation Dwayne Wade is calling upon.
From Chris Tomasson of FoxSportsFlorida: Not that these stars usually need much extra, but some secrets are being revealed about how LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are getting up for playoff games. For James, it’s his Book of the Series Club. The Miami forward was seen reading “The Hunger Games” before his epic 40-point, 18-rebound, nine-assist performance starved Indiana on Sunday. ”I’ve been doing it since the playoffs started,” James said Monday about reading before games, the latest a 101-93 Heat win that tied the East semifinal 2-2. “It just puts me in a different mindset, honestly, before the game. I kind of don’t even think what’s going to happen throughout the game. I’ve just been reading and just been able to calm me down, and then once I get on the basketball court I just kind and react.” As for Wade, he was said to have watched movies in his room during his troubling period between Games 3 and 4. Maybe the Heat guard caught part of “Rambo” at halftime Sunday, considering he had 22 of his 30 points after intermission. As has been well chronicled, Wade was a disaster in the Game 3 loss, scoring a meager five points, failing to always get back on defense and getting into a heated discussion with coach Erik Spoelstra on the bench. To help ease his mind, Wade sought out his former Marquette coach, Tom Crean, going down to Bloomington, Ind., where he now coaches Indiana. Miami forward Udonis Haslem said he did his part to help longtime buddy Wade. ”I had a couple of movies that I brought with me on the trip,” Haslem said. “I took a couple movies to his room so he could watch some movies and just rest his mind and get himself ready for the next game.” What were the titles? ”It’s our secret,” Haslem said.When Wade was asked for the titles, he said, “I can’t put that information out there.” Then he yelled over to Haslem to make sure he had no thoughts of revealing them.