MIAMI — Udonis Haslem insists he meant no harm. The NBA deemed otherwise, and the Miami Heat will be without one of their co-captains when they try to close out the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night.
Haslem was suspended for Game 6 of the Miami-Indiana Eastern Conference semifinal series, a matchup where emotions boiled over in a runaway Heat victory on Tuesday night. The NBA also said Miami reserve center Dexter Pittman will miss three games in response to his flagrant foul against Indiana backup guard Lance Stephenson in the final seconds of Game 5.
Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough was not suspended, although the league upgraded his foul against Miami's Dwyane Wade to a flagrant-2 on Wednesday — which, if called that way during Game 5, would have brought an automatic ejection. Hansbrough struck Wade in the head, opening a cut over his right eye. Moments later, Haslem committed a flagrant foul against Hansbrough, clearly in response to the play against Wade.
So while Haslem sits Thursday, Hansbrough may play.
“It’s very disappointing, obviously,” Miami forward Shane Battier said Wednesday night. “But we’re a resilient group. ... The verdict process is a mystery to players, and so we don’t get caught up in it. We can’t control it. We know the NBA’s going to do what they feel they need to do and we need to live with the consequences. So it’s really out of our hands, not worth getting riled up. We’re going to put together an effort that will make Udonis and Dexter proud.”
The Heat lead the series 3-2, after a 115-83 win Tuesday night in a game that had the three flagrant fouls on the court, accusations of dirty play afterward and finally with Pacers team president Larry Bird telling The Indianapolis Star that his team was “soft” in Game 5.
“I agree with his assessment. We did play soft,” Indiana's Danny Granger said Wednesday. “We got smacked around. We got beat up, we got bullied, and we really didn’t respond well.”
Countered Miami's LeBron James, the NBA’s reigning MVP: “He’s just trying to amp them up. That’s all. That’s all it is. He knows his team isn’t soft. But with them, with their backs against the wall at this point, he knows what he’s doing. He’s not the executive of the year for no reason.”