Miami took it to the Pacers in a blowout victory last night and seemed to take out a little frustration in the process. After Game 3, the media (including yours truly) went to town questioning the Heat’s ability to gut it out against a physical Pacers team. Well, the Heat are back on track, one game from putting the Pacers away, and their two megastars are firing on all cylinders.
The role players on the Heat put on a pretty tough facade in Game 5, with a few flagrant fouls as well. Udonis Haslem put the hammer down on Tyler Hansborough, perhaps as payback for the head injury Haslem sustained in Game 4 and/or as payback for the flagrant that Hansborough levied on Dwyane Wade just seconds earlier.
This was not a good move on Haslem’s part. With Chris Bosh out, Haslem has been the Heat’s best role player. The above foul probably should have been a flagrant-two foul — since, unlike Hansborough, Haslem made no play for the ball as he was hammering the shooter — and the NBA might review this and suspend Haslem for a game or two. That could have a major impact on the Heat’s ability to surround James and Wade with enough skill to have an easy victory.
Later in the game there was an incident between a few bench scrubs. Dexter Pittman came in with a hard elbow on Lance Stephenson during a rebound. This also might have been in retaliation for Stephenson’s bench behavior from Game 3. Pittman is going to get a multi-game suspension for this one. Not that it matters a whole lot — Pittman has only played a few minutes in the playoffs — but it betrays a lack of class on the part of the Heat.
There’s a fine line between playing tough, protecting your stars, and taking cheap shots. The Heat took some cheap shots in Game 5. If they survive the Pacers and meet the Celtics in the Eastern Finals, they might find out what that difference is.