Things took a turn for the worst in Game 5 when Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough “made a play on the ball” but also swiped hard enough at the head of Dwyane Wade to draw blood from the All-Star guard.
What resulted from that play was retaliation by Heat forward Udonis Haslem, who less than a minute later hammer-dropped both arms down on Hansbrough, who was in the act of shooting. Then, of course, came the ill-intended foul by Miami’s Dexter Pittman against Indiana’s Lance Stephenson with the game well in hand.
The results of those actions? An upgrade of Hansbrough’s flagrant-1 foul to a flagrant-2, which for all intents and purposes does not hurt the Pacers, while suspensions were handed out to Haslem and Pittman.
At the end of the day, the biggest casualty will be Miami, which will have to try to close out the series without a critical piece.
The Heat took control of the series on Tuesday night with a 115-83 blowout victory over the Pacers and need one more victory to move onto the Eastern Conference finals. It could be a challenging task due to the suspensions, leaving only Ronny Turiaf and Joel Anthony to deal with the tandem of David West and Roy Hibbert. Chris Bosh has been out due to a strained abdomen and will miss Game 6.
The worst-case scenario may be to play Juwan Howard for extended minutes or activate Eddy Curry who has yet to make an appearance in the postseason, although Stephen A. Smith said “the only time you mention his name is if you mention Burger King and Dunkin Donuts.”
James and Wade were spectacular again as they combined for 58 points, but their performance was far from the topic of discussion heading into Game 6. The suspensions – Haslem’s in particular – were still fresh in the minds of Heat players and coach Erik Spoelstra, who openly questioned why his players aren’t being protected better.
From Ira Winderman of South Florida SunSentinel: “While insisting he only is looking ahead, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra took time Thursday to question the way his team’s games against the Indiana Pacers have been officiated this season. In the wake of Heat reserves Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman being suspended by the NBA for their flagrant fouls in Tuesday’s Game 5 victory over the Indiana Pacers in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, Spoelstra turned his focus to hits absorbed from the Pacers this season by forward LeBron James and guard Dwyane Wade. ”The league does not have a problem with hard fouls on our two main guys. In nine games now, there’s been over a dozen hard fouls to the face, some of the tomahawk variety,” he said of his team’s regular-season and postseason games against the Pacers. “Some of them have drawn blood. They don’t have a problem with it, so we don’t have a problem with it. Our guys will continue to attack. They’ll play their game and we’ll focus on what we can control.”
James believes the poor decisions by the referees caused the subsequent plays followed by Hansbrough’s foul. “If there was a flagrant-2 to start with,” James said, “then U.D. would have never fouled him, which means U.D. never would have got suspended. I mean Hansbrough, it’s not the first time that he went after one of our players this year. We have two guys suspended and basically they have no one suspended.”
While the Heat questioned the rough play of the Pacers, Larry Bird took time to question the softness of the team he assembled. ”I can’t believe my team went soft,” he said. “S-O-F-T. I’m disappointed. I never thought it would happen.”
”I agree with his assessment. We did play soft,” Danny Granger replied. ”We got smacked around. We got beat up, we got bullied, and we really didn’t respond well.”
From Bob Kravitz of Indianapolis Star: “Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird has issued a call to arms. And elbows. And knees. And other body parts that might get involved in this skirmish of an Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series between the Miami Fighting Heat and the Indiana Battlin’ Pacers. Like the rhetoric hadn’t been ratcheted up enough already. I like it. And I think you’ll like the Indiana team that comes out tonight and stretches this to a seventh game in Miami. There’s no issue here with Bird’s proclamation, which he made in a late-night, postgame phone call to Indianapolis Star reporter Mike Wells. He was right, wasn’t he? (Although Dwyane Wade, owner of a cut over his right eye, may take issue with the suggestion the Pacers were soft.) But they were competitively soft, falling to pieces when they lost their top scorer and captain, Danny Granger, to an ankle injury.”
Granger will play through the ankle sprain without restrictions in tonight’s game.
After shooting just 33.7 percent from the field in Game 5, Indiana will look to play sharper on the offensive end.
James Park is a regular contributor to Sheridanhoops.com. You can find him on twitter @nbatupark.