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.
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.”
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