2012 NBA Playoffs: Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers Series Takes A Violent Turn
On Tuesday, the Heat responded both off the court and on it with a 115-83 thrashing of the Pacers. After a physical game that featured three (well-deserved) flagrant fouls, it’s time to take a quick peek into how the repercussions of Game 5 will have an effect on each team for Game 6. Miami has an opportunity to clinch the series Thursday night.
Udonis Haslem’s Suspension
This one is a killer for the Heat. Maybe Haslem was feeling angry about having to look like Popeye the sailor man after receiving a cut to his eye in Game 5. More likely, he wanted retaliation after Pacers power forward Tyler Hansbrough drew blood to Heat star guard Dwayne Wade in this flagrant foul earlier in the game. Now, Haslem will have to watch Game 6 in a suit after clubbing Hansbrough a minute after the hit to Wade.
After losing Chris Bosh until at least the next round after a Game 1 abdominal strain, Haslem had given the Heat their only reliable post shooter. Haslem hit four clutch jump shots in the fourth quarter to help the Heat pull away 101-93 in Game 4 and did more of the same in Game 5, shooting 5-for-6 on the game and finishing with 10 points and six rebounds.
While he couldn’t fully replace Bosh’s range and size, going from Haslem to either Juwan Howard or Eddy Curry will be an even larger downgrade for Miami. One can respect, if not condone, the intentions Haslem had in trying to stand up for his longtime teammate in Wade. Yet, when you’re the third-best player on a squad fighting to advance in the playoffs, taking a vicious swing at an opponent that results in having to sit out a chance to eliminate that opponent is probably not the best course of action.
Downgrade the Granger Alert
The original inciter of the bad blood that had been boiling the entire series, Granger sprained his ankle in the first half of Game 6. Granger hit three early three-pointers in that game, and when he left the Heat lead was only three points, but the Pacers couldn’t overcome his loss nor stop Lebron James in the blowout.
While Granger will play tonight, he is likely to struggle even more in guarding James, both one-on-one as well as keeping up when the Heat decide to run the fastbreak. Additionally, a hobbled Granger might be a crutch for the Pacers if his shooting is even worse than it already has been this series (36.5 percent from the field and 13 points per game, down five from the regular season).
In just his second time seeing the court in the playoffs, the Heat’s reserve center Dexter Pittman decided to give Pacers reserve Lance Stephenson a different reason to hold his neck with a brutal and blatant jab.
Pittman received a three game suspension and while he wasn’t likely to play anyway, this unnecessary action of “revenge” will ensure a tense and closely-called Game 6 tonight.
You know the cross-legged, dirty blonde, and ornery-looking middle age man in the stands the cameras have been focusing on this entire series? That's former Celtics superstar and current Pacers team president Larry Bird, and he's not happy with Game 5 at all. Partially out of truth and partially of a (not-so) subtle desire to motivate his team, especially Pacers big men Roy Hibbert and David West, Bird spelled out his team as "S-O-F-T" and expressed his dissatisfaction with their effort Tuesday night.
Public humiliation of one's team is not always the greatest tool of motivation (ask Stan Van Gundy), but Bird realizes his team is one bad game away from the offseason and hopes his decision to create a ripple in the media in order to send a clear message to coach Frank Vogel and his players pays dividends tonight.
As Indiana hosts Game 6 tonight, a repeat of Tuesday’s WWE Fight Night impression does not look to be in the cards. Instead, the Pacers hope to see Roy Hibbert and David West emulate their Game 3 performances in Indiana's 19-point win (19 points, 18 rebounds, and five blocks for Hibbert, 14 points and nine rebounds for West) rather than their duds in the past two Pacers defeats (a combined 36 points). Meanwhile, the Heat will be relying on James and Wade to carry the scoring load (doesn’t this sound familiar), and will look to limit the Pacers' open looks in what should be a low-scoring grind.