wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost

The Post Most: Sports

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/tv-listings-dc
The Early Lead
Posted at 11:34 AM ET, 05/23/2012

Pacers-Heat: Larry Bird hits as hard as Dexter Pittman. Or Udonis Haslem.


Udonis Haslem of the Miami Heat delivers a flagrant foul to Tyler Hansbrough in Game 5 of the playoff series against the Indiana Pacers. (Andrew Innerarity / Reuters)

It’s going to take a while for the NBA to sort out just what kind of penalties the flagrant foul-fest that was Game 5 of the Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers series might warrant, but the hardest hit in the increasingly physical series was landed by a 55-year-old Hall of Famer who hasn’t played since 1992.

Larry Bird, the Pacers’ president, called out his team in the clearest terms possible Tuesday night after the Heat took a 3-2 series lead with a 115-83 victory. The loss was the worst in Pacers’ playoff history.

“I can’t believe my team went soft,” Bird, who played in 164 playoff games, told Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star. “S-O-F-T. I’m disappointed. I never thought it would happen.”

He declined the opportunity to go further, telling Wells, “That’s all I have to say.”

It was enough. While the Pacers try to pull themselves together, the NBA will sort out the foul-marred game that threatens to turn the series into a blood feud. The first of three flagrant fouls came when Tyler Hansbrough hammered Dwyane Wade and drew blood.


Tyler Hansbrough flagrantly fouls Dwyane Wade, which prompted retaliation from Udonis Haslem. (Andrew Innerarity / Reuters)
Less than a minute later, Udonis Haslem (still bandaged from being cut over the eye by an elbow in Game 4) hammered Hansbrough with two hands to the face.

And, late in the game, Dexter Pittman, the Heat’s backup center, clocked Lance Stephenson, who’d famously given LeBron James the choke sign from the bench in the Pacers’ Game 3 win, with a high, hard elbow. (See it here.) X-rays of Stephenson’s collarbone were negative.

Regardless of what action the NBA takes, the tone is set for Game 6 on Thursday night. “Game 6 is going to be physical,” Wade said. “We got to understand that.”

James took a diplomatic approach, talking it back from the brink. “There's no room for dirty plays in our game, period — whether it's from us, or Indiana or anyone in the league,” James said. “We're all one group as players, and you don't want anybody to get hurt.”

Follow us: @CindyBoren | @MattBrooksWP

More from Washington Post Sports

Wade erupts at Erik Spoelstra

Can Miami win without Chris Bosh?

Bosh injury could give Pacers bigger inside edge on Heat

NBA Playoffs: Scores & schedule

By  |  11:34 AM ET, 05/23/2012

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company