There has been a nasty edge to the playoff series between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers and after more blood in Tuesday’s latest encounter, the Heat’s Dwyane Wade said the physical clashes were getting close to crossing the line.
Wade was left bleeding above his eye after being struck by Tyler Hansbrough in the second quarter of the Eastern Conference semi-final.
That incident may have motivated a worse foul when Miami’s Udonis Haslem slammed both his arms into the face of Hansbrough in the game’s second flagrant foul.
“I thought I got fouled once and the next thing I know I took a hit,” said Wade, whose 28 points helped Miami to a 115-83 victory to give them a 3-2 lead in the series. “Obviously my face is not the ball. I thought it was uncalled for. No-one likes to see their own blood, I tried to stay in the game [mentally].”
Hansbrough had no doubt that Haslem was looking for him on the later incident.
“It was a hard foul. He came at me, it was pretty clear. We will take it from there,” he said.
Before the game, Wade’s teammate LeBron James had expressed his weariness with Indiana forward Danny Granger’s behavior in the series, describing his frequent face-to-face confrontations as “stupid.”
Asked if he felt a line had been crossed in the series, Wade said it wasn’t far away.
“You want to have great competitive games. You want to make sure you are not giving up lay-ups, but you do not want to hurt anybody. I think it is close [to crossing the line],” he said.
Before the game, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel had added his voice to the tough talk when he told reporters: “We’re going to stand up for each other. We’re not interested in getting unnecessary technicals, but it’s a war out there. We’re not backing down.”
The worst foul of the night actually came with the game over as a contest and Miami’s second string on court.
The Heat’s Dexter Pittman launched an elbow into Lance Stephenson, a player who had been at the center of some controversy after Game 3 when he appeared to make a “choker” sign directed at James.
The idea that Pittman might have been settling scores was given some strength by television replays, which showed the rarely used Miami player wink after the challenge.
The NBA is sure to review that incident, along with the others, while Pittman could face a lengthy suspension and hefty fine if the league decides the challenge was premeditated.
While not addressing the Pittman incident directly, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said there was no aim from his team to get involved in incidents.
“It’s a physical series. No one wants to make it into anything more than that. Anything more than that is over the line. We need to play physical. We need to play with force. They’re doing the same thing,” Spoelstra said.
However, Pacers forward David West suggested his knee injury had been the result of being targeted by the Heat.
“A guy just dove into my knee,” he said before being asked if he felt that was deliberate.
“It is part of the game, I can handle myself, I don’t need anyone to protect me,” he said.