Twice, Indiana Pacers were fouled hard on dirty plays by the Miami Heat in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series. Twice the Pacers did nothing in retaliation. They did not even fake as if they wanted some get-back against the Heat, which leads the series 3-2.
That lack of response left Indiana general manager Larry Bird so incensed he publicly called his team “soft.”
Meanwhile, the over-the-top fouls by the Heat players cost the team. Udonis Haslem, a key frontline player with Chris Bosh still out with an abdominal strain, was suspended for tonight’s Game 6 in Indianapolis for his two-hand shiver to the face and shoulders of the Pacers’ Tyler Hansborough.
Hansborough, who had been assessed a flagrant-1 for hitting a driving Dwyane Wade, was headed toward the basket for a shot when Haslem did not make a play on the ball, but instead laid him out with what was ruled at the time as a flagrant-1, which was just a technical foul. But the league reviewed the play and determined Haslem’s assualt merited a suspension, leaving a hole in the Miami rotation of big men.
Hanborough’s foul was upgraded by the league to a flagrant-2, but he was not suspended for tonight’s game, when Miami could close out the Pacers.
In the game’s final seconds, benchwarmer Dexter Pittman leveled Pacer Lance Stephenson with a blow to the neck after the play and away from the action. It was an obvious retaliation for Stephenson making the “choke” signal — hands around his throat — after LeBron James missed key foul shots in Game 3.
”It’s very disappointing, obviously,” Miami forward Shane Battier said Wednesday night. ”But we’re a resilient group. . . We’re going to put together an effort that will make Udonis and Dexter proud.”
Bird was not proud of his team’s lack of action after the Miami hard plays.
”I agree with his assessment. We did play soft,” said Indiana forward Danny Granger, who is listed as day-to-day with an ankle sprain. He says he will play. ”We got smacked around. We got beat up, we got bullied, and we really didn’t respond well.”
James said: “(Bird) is just trying to amp them up. 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.”