INDIANAPOLIS — And the yapping contiues.
The Pacers and Heat will actually get around to deciding this East semifinal series on the court, but before Game 6 they threw verbal punches, the kind that don’t draw suspensions, which is what Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman received and Tyler Hansbrough didn’t.
“I mean, Hansbrough, it’s not the first time he’s gone after one of our players this year,” said LeBron James. “We have two guys suspended and basically they have no one suspended.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, citing the physical whacks on LeBron and Dwyane Wade, said: “The league does not have a problem with hard fouls on our two main guys. In nine games now (including regular season games with Indiana) there’s been over a dozen hard fouls to the face, some of the tomahawk variety, some have drawn blood. They don’t have a problem with it, so we don’t have a problem with it. We’ll focus on what we can control.”
Well, what Miami can control is its fate in this “wild wild West” series, to quote Danny Granger, with two chances to close out the Pacers. Putting aside the bad blood for a moment, both teams aren’t at full strength, Miami without Chris Bosh and Haslem, the Pacers hoping Granger will overcame a bum ankle suffered in Game 5.
For Game 6, anyway, given the injury/suspension issue, it’s a matter of everyone shutting up and certain players stepping up. Here are the candidates for the latter:
Paul George: He hasn’t had a breakout moment yet in this series, but you can understand. He must guard Wade. And Wade is guarding him. And all things considered, this is his first big playoff moment in the NBA. Still, if Granger can’t cut and drive or carry his share of the scoring, it would make life easier for the Pacers if George assumed that role. He’s averaging just under 10 points on 35 percent shooting.
David West: Did you ever think West would be held in check by Shane Battier, who’s scrawny by comparison? It’s not all Battier; Miami is doubling West whenever possible, but Battier is the first line of defense. West brings a decent low-post game but is better from midrange, where he can sink jumpers from the corner or elbows. In the last two games, however, he’s hitting only 8-of-21 shots with 10 total rebounds after averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds in the first three. And now he must shake off a minor knee twinge for Game 6.
Roy Hibbert: Nobody should be able to make this guy disappear except David Copperfield, but somehow the Pacers have managed to ignore Hibbert for the most part since his Game 3 eruption. Hibbert has attempted 19 shots the last two games after taking 16 in Game 3 alone. He should be clobbering Miami in the post. He isn’t.
Ronny Turiaf: Partly because of foul trouble, partly because of ineffectiveness, Turiaf’s minutes have been sparse, just 13 a game over the last two. Well, that’ll probably change for Game 6, with Haslem gone. Turiaf does bring energy and spirit, which is meaningless when he doesn’t channel it properly.
Mike Miller: If Spoelstra uses LeBron at power forward, Miller (along with Battier) is the most likely replacement at small forward. Miller (2-for-7 on 3-pointers) is still battling through aches but it’s nothing that a few 3s can’t cure.
So that’s the tale of the tape. If the game is played as tightly as it’s expected to be officiated, then someone will win at the buzzer.
“This game and this series will be decided between the foul lines and within the guidelines of the rules,” Spoelstra said.