Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between Miami and Indiana was one of the most physical in the 2012 NBA playoffs. But Larry Bird said the Indiana Pacers were “soft” in Game 5 and his team is taking it to heart.
During the game, Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough committed a flagrant foul against Heat star Dwyane Wade. A few minutes later, the Heat’s Udonis Haslem committed a flagrant foul against Hansbrough.
The worst foul of the night was by the Heat’s Dexter Pittman who threw a forearm into the chest and throat of Lance Stephenson. Of all the hard fouls, Pittman is the most likely to receive a suspension for his foul.
The Pacers agreed with Bird’s observation that they played soft in Game 5.
“I agree with his assessment. We did play soft,” said Pacers forward Danny Granger. “We got smacked around. We got beat up, we got bullied, and we really didn’t respond well.”
Granger continued, “I think he just called out what everyone else saw. We played a soft game. We didn’t play with the playoff intensity that we needed to win.”
Granger himself didn’t finish Game 5 after leaving with a sprained ankle in the third quarter. He joined power forward David West on the sideline, who also suffered a sprained knee. The Pacers hope both will be available Thursday night in Game 6.
For the Heat, they believed that Bird’s comments were just a way to try and spark the Pacers as they return home to Indianapolis for Game 6 against the Heat.
“He’s just trying to amp them up. That’s all. That’s all it is,” said Heat star LeBron James. “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.”
The series started out on a sour note when Pacers coach Frank Vogel called the Heat “floppers,” meaning they try to sell fouls that may not necessarily be a foul. Granger has been whistled for three technical fouls and Stephenson made a choking gesture towards LeBron earlier in the series.
Granger spent part of Tuesday saying both Haslem and Pittman should be suspended for their fouls. It was a point D-Wade found almost amusing.
“We’re not in here crying about the fouls,” Wade said. “They fouled us. We’re moving on to Game 6. We’re not going to worry about what happened in Game 5. For us, it’s about moving forward.”
Losing Pittman wouldn’t be a big blow to the Heat. On the other hand, losing Haslem for one or two games could be the difference between the Heat moving on or going home. Haslem has just recently discovered his jump shot again and is filling the gap left by the absence of Chris Bosh.
As for Bosh, the Heat haven’t given any indication that he will be able to return for the current series, or an additional series, should the Heat advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Still, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said all of the talking about fouls and flopping was irrelevant to the task at hand.
“All the chatter and all the stuff, it’ll still end up being decided between the lines,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And it’ll be decided by the rules of the game.”
Both teams are traveling to Indiana Wednesday in preparation for Game 6 in Indianapolis Thursday night. If the series goes to a seventh game, it will be held in the AmericanAirlines Arena on Saturday night at 8 p.m.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)