The ‘bows were flying in Game 5 as the Heat took a 3-2 series advantage in an extremely physical and at times dirty affair. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
[Editor’s Note: My brother gave me the night off. This is his assessment of Game 5. I watched the game, too, but I eventually got bored, surrendered the remote, and ended up watching The Bachelorette. Marriage.]
Simply put, the Pacers played their worst game of the series while the Heat probably played their best. The Pacers shot 34% overall and 29% from three while the Heat was 61% and 56% (what?!?!). The rebounding disparity was also heavily in favor of the Heat. LeBron once again played out of his mind with a 30-10-8 to go along with Dwyane Wade’s 28. The corpse of Shane Battier hit a few threes and Miami received minor contributions from Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem. But the real story was the Heat’s defense. The Pacers offensive struggles were a product of Miami forcing the Pacers into poor shots and bad decisions… or were they?
While I was watching this game, I mentioned to my friend that as lucky as the Pacers were to still be in the game at halftime, Miami wasn’t really doing anything spectacular. As commonly stated, the Pacers couldn’t hit the ocean with a stone and they decided to combat that by shooting three pointers at the dumbest times. To top it off, they stood around watching their bricks clank one after the other instead of going after the long rebounds which consistently led to Miami fast breaks.
Indiana’s big men were also M.I.A. throughout Game 5. David West couldn’t hit his typical jump shot and Roy Hibbert looked like the guy I thought he would be coming out of college; overwhelmed. Hibbert missed lay-ups, failed to rotate on defense, and grabbed a meaningless 12 rebounds. All in all, the Pacers looked like a team in over their heads.
But the real story of the night was the physicality on display. Body parts were flying all over the court and tempers flared more than once. Personally, the Pacers are being idiots. Resorting to bullying tactics does not demand respect. You earn the respect of your opponents by the way you play. Danny Granger trying to get into LeBron’s head has been a complete failure. Lance Stephenson’s choking motion in Game 3 was also ridiculously idiotic. In Game 5, Tyler Hansbrough’s hard foul on Wade was excessive. Psycho T is known as a hustler, and he seemed to try to make a play, but the HUGE swipe he took (which did hit the ball first) was intended to send a message to the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, the message didn’t work. It did, however, lead to retaliatory efforts from Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman.
In my opinion, these two men took the physicality way too far. First, Haslem set out to respond to the hard foul on Wade (a ploy I can respect like pitchers sticking up for their teammates in baseball or hockey players taking a fighting penalty after a cheap shot). But Haslem clearly crossed the line. As Hansbrough went up for a baseline floater with the ball in his right hand, Haslem brought both hands straight down on Hansbrough’s face. Haslem never made a play on the ball, only the face of a defenseless player. Instead of making the right call, the refs declared the play only deserved a flagrant 1. I agree wholeheartedly with Charles Barkley who, at halftime, said the refs were cowards not to award a flagrant 2 and send Haslem to the locker room. If Haslem’s not fined (and possibly suspended) the NBA should just come out and say they want the Heat in the Finals.
Even worse than Haslem’s hack job (but not by much) was Mr. Dexter Pittman. Who? Pittman wanted to send a message of his own to Stephenson (who made the choking sign in Game 3) even though Juan Howard had already approached Stephenson before Game 4. Pittman felt a little more emphasis was needed. Thus, he sent a vicious elbow into the throat of a cutting Stephenson which sent both men flying. I was surprised Stephenson could even breathe afterwards. Not surprisingly, Pittman was only given a flagrant 1. I definitely think he will be punished harshly, but only because he rarely ever sees the court except in blowouts like tonight.
Again, I am not against physical play. I like hard fouls. They are a natural part of the playoffs. But there is fine line between hard and brutish. What we saw in Game 5 was the latter.
As for the outlook for the rest of the series, I think the Pacers are done. They fought valiantly (and at times mindlessly) but LeBron has no one to stop him from doing anything he wants. Add the Granger injury and the Pacers have no one with the confidence of a go-to-scorer. The Pacers should play better in Indiana, but LeBron seems determined to carry his team through the rest of this series.