Remember last week, when Indiana Pacers afterthought Lance Stephenson was spied on the Pacer bench making a "choke" symbol toward Miami Heat superstar LeBron James as he missed free throws in Game 3 of the teams' second-round series? And how LeBron apparently didn't care enough to give Stephenson the time of day following? Well, it appears Heat Counterpart in Scrubbishness Dexter Pittman wanted to give Stephenson the time of day, just as soon as a big enough blowout hit in Game 5 to warrant an appearance from both Stephenson and Pittman, two players who combined for just 742 minutes during the regular season, some court time.
And enough time for Pittman to exactly his stupid, pointless, ultimately ineffective and downright dangerous "revenge" on Stephenson with a shot to his throat, with just 19 seconds left in Game 5. Watch:
This will no doubt result in a much-deserved suspension for Pittman, likely in upward of seven or eight games, as this was clearly (unlike Metta World Peace's shot to James Harden) intentional and possibly premeditated. Though postgame X-rays of Stephenson's collarbone came out negative, the shot could have destroyed his larynx or done damage to his spine and/or neck. The fact that Pittman was caught winking on camera (at the 53-second mark in the video above) following the hit didn't help nor did his refusal to be a man and discuss things with the media following the game.
All of this came after a pair of hits in the first quarter of the contest that, while they were certainly scary and dangerous, not nearly as potentially destructive. Tyler Hansbrough was rightfully called for a flagrant foul on Dwyane Wade, opening up a gash over Wade's right eye, and minutes later Udonis Haslem retaliated with a two-armed foul that was nastier than Hansbrough's hit, but called for the same flagrant-1 infraction. Take a look:
Surprisingly, though he made no play on the ball, Haslem was not tossed from the game or given a flagrant-2. This might come back to hurt the Heat, though. Had Haslem been tossed, as was well warranted because of the severity of the hit and the retaliatory tone that came with it, his ejection would have come in the midst of a blowout. The Heat wouldn't have needed Haslem much, as they won by 32.
The NBA, reeling from all the hits, may feel pressured to give Haslem a suspension for Thursday's Game 6, when typically only a fine would result. Pittman's foul, an hour and a half later, certainly won't help the Heat's image, nor will the NBA front office's sometimes emotional and always media-inspired leanings when it hands down judgments. Pacer fans may have blown up social media outlets complaining about Haslem's continued presence in the game, but in letting Udonis stick around the referees possibly gave Indiana a Haslem-less advantage (remember, he's the guy who hit 5-of-6 shots to put Miami over the top in Game 4) for Game 6.
Whatever the result (we fully expect Haslem to be suspended for a game, and Pittman for perhaps seven or eight), Thursday's stage is set for what could be a voracious Game 6 that the assigned referees will have to find an uneasy balance between judging while mindful of the physical and dirty play that has preceded it, and not overreacting to perceived slights. It won't be easy and it won't be clean.
It'll be playoff basketball. For better, or worse.
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