Dwyane Wade sat in the media room wearing a Band-Aid over his right eye, looking like he went 12 rounds with Manny Pacquiao. Danny Granger left the arena in a walking boot, while Lance Stephenson may have injured his collarbone and David West is nursing a sprained knee.
Things got so heated between Miami and Indiana Tuesday the playoff contest turned into an old-fashioned basketbrawl, a battle royale reminiscent of the days when hard fouls were the norm and the action was more suited for the Octagon. The league office handed down the punishments on Wednesday, suspending Heat forward Udonis Haslem for one game, reserve center Dexter Pittman for three games, and Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough’s hard foul was upgraded to a flagrant 2.
Hansbrough ignited the fireworks in the second quarter with a hard foul on Wade, cutting the Heat star above the eye. Haslem returned the favor by whacking Hansbrough across the face. Both men were assessed a flagrant 1 foul. Wade said the Haslem foul doesn’t deserve a suspension, but he believed Hansbrough — also known as Psycho T — went a little too far with his tomahawk chop to the face.
“I took a shot that I thought was uncalled for. My face is not the ball so he didn’t make a play on the ball,” said Wade.
Hansbrough and Haslem were not the only ones who delivered blows in Game 5. Pittman leveled Stephenson with a WWE-type clothesline that would have made Charles Oakley proud. Stephenson immediately grabbed his shoulder and may have sustained a collarbone injury. It was an obvious retaliation to Stephenson’s choke sign aimed at LeBron James in Game 3 in Indiana.
“The Dexter Pittman play is as dirty as it gets. That should be a four to five games (suspension),” ESPN analyst Tim Legler said.
TV replays showed Pittman launching himself into Stephenson, and was later caught on the monitor winking at someone, giving the impression that he was targeting Stephenson and his elbow wasn’t accidental. The great Pat Riley once said that there is never such a thing as a accidental elbow. Pittman and Haslem delivered a powerful message to the Pacers that you don’t mess with any of the Heat superstars.
“You want to have great competitive games. You’re not giving up layups but you don’t want to hurt nobody,” Wade said. “It takes away from the game. I told my teammates that [Hansbrough] foul was over with so let’s focus on the game.”
West also left Game 5 early with a knee sprain, an injury he believes he sustained due to the physical play. “Guys just dove into my knee. Part of the game, I guess. But I can take care of myself. I don’t need the referees to do that. That will be dealt with,” West said. “It was just one of those things. It’s been a tough series, a very physical series.”
When someone asked West if one of the Heat players went after his knee on purpose he replied with a very cryptic message: “It’s part of the game. Again, I’ll take care of it. I can handle myself.”
The series has been extemely chippy from the start, with pockets of confrontations between West and Mario Chalmers and LeBron James and Granger. Now Hansbrough, Haslem and Pittman have cranked up the physical play as both sides are trying to apply the knockout punch.
Granger and James have been knocking each other around all series long, and Granger has gotten in LeBron’s face a couple of times. But one he literally tugged on Superman’s cape when he pulled LeBron’s jersey at halfcourt to prevent a fastbreak. LeBron didn’t appreciate the tug and threw his left elbow up to send a message, which caused Granger to flip.
Granger sprained his left ankle in the second quarter of Tuesday’s game in Miami when he stepped on LeBron’s foot while shooting a three, so his availability is now in question. He tried to give it a go in the second half but had to leave in the third quarter, which was when the Heat blew the game wide open.
Pacers president Larry Bird called his team “soft” after Game 5, but it’s a bit hard to digest that harsh criticism especially when you have three guys in the training room with major injuries. And don’t tell Wade and Haslem the Pacers are playing soft because their faces have taken a pounding.