HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — The Indiana Pacers left Miami nursing their wounds, both physical and emotional, after a second straight deflating loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
But they won’t get any sympathy at home, not from Pacers president Larry Bird, who made it clear late last night where he feels his team went wrong in this series.
Bird unleashed on his own team after the Heat unloaded on both Tyler Hansbrough and Lance Stephenson with a couple of wicked hard fouls from Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman, respectively, telling Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star:
“I can’t believe my team went soft,” Bird said on the phone. “S-O-F-T. I’m disappointed. I never thought it would happen.”
When asked to elaborate on those comments, an obviously frustrated Bird said, “That’s all I have to say.”
You had to know Bird was going to let loose on someone after watching his team get wobbled repeatedly in the last six quarters of this series. Bird and his Celtics never shied away from a challenge during his Hall of Fame playing career, so it’s no surprise that went off on his own team.
A series that was within the Pacers’ grasp has spiraled out of control since things went from chippy to flat-out physical. What Bird’s words mean for Game 6 remains to be seen, but if the boss calls you “S-O-F-T,” you have to figure someone is going to do their best to prove him wrong.
(We’re by no means advocating any retaliation shots for what happened in Game 5, even though Pittman’s shot was particularly vicious and totally uncalled for. And the watch for his wink after the elbow to Stephenson’s throat — that should earn him an extra game or two of suspension. But when the Heat respond to Danny Granger‘s words and antics from earlier in this series like this, the Pacers are bound to return the favor in much the same way, just like Haslem did for the hard foul Hansbrough delivered earlier in the game.)
It might be a too late for the Pacers, though. Whatever window they had to seize control of this series appears to have closed. The Heat are firmly in control of this series and have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade playing some of their best basketball of the postseason.