Erik Spoelstra angered by fouls
INDIANAPOLIS -- Upset that the NBA suspended Udonis Haslem for a flagrant foul, the Miami Heat went on the offensive Thursday and accused the Indiana Pacers of a series of dirty hits on Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and blasted the league for ignoring it.
"The league does not have a problem with hard fouls on our two main guys," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Thursday before taking on the Pacers in Game 6.
"In nine games now 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."
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The "nine games" reference also includes the Heat's regular-season games against the Pacers, which the Heat clearly reviewed as part of their case. Specifically, the Heat seemed to target Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough, who had a flagrant foul on Wade in Tuesday's Game 5, which was upgraded from a flagrant 1 to a flagrant 2. He was not suspended.
"I mean, Hansbrough, it's not the first time he's gone after one of our players this year," James said. "We have two guys suspended and basically they have no one suspended."
Wade admitted some of the fouls have upset his team, and trying to retaliate now has cost the Heat Haslem for an important elimination game.
"When you feel someone is taking a shot at one of your guys, your first reaction is you want to get them back, you want to retaliate," Wade said. "As you see, that doesn't always work. It is always the second guy to get in trouble."
Spoelstra said the Heat will accept the decision on Haslem, but don't agree with it. As for Heat center Dexter Pittman, who was suspended three games for a vicious elbow thrown at Pacers guard Lance Stephenson on Tuesday, Spoelstra was much more contrite.
But Spoelstra did take steps to deny that Pittman was sent on the court looking to take a cheap shot on Stephenson, who had gotten on Heat players' nerves during the season and made a choking gesture after James missed a free throw in Game 3.
"[Pittman] made a bad foul. It's not indicative of anything else than him trying to be physical," Spoelstra said. "There was no other statement he was trying to make. It was a poor decision on his part. He'll learn from it. Obviously we don't condone anything that doesn't have to do with the game of basketball."
Pacers coach Frank Vogel didn't want to get into a war of words Thursday.
"We have no interest in that," he said. "Our focus is on winning Game 6, nothing else. I'm not getting into all that."
There are indications the physical play in the series could continue, though. Pacers president Larry Bird said his team played "soft" in the 32-point Game 5 loss, and players on both sides have said they will not let the flagrant fouls change their style of play.
The NBA has assigned to work Game 6 a veteran crew of officials with reputations for having a quick hook: Scott Foster, Ken Mauer and Marc Davis, who ejected Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo from a game earlier in the playoffs.
"Nobody can hide from this fact: This game and this series will be decided between the four lines and within the guidelines of the NBA rules," Spoelstra said.