The NBA Handed Down A Critical One Game Suspension On Udonis Haslem
May 23 / Eric Goldschein / SportsGrid
It turns out the NBA league office disagreed with the way the officials handled last night's Miami-Indiana flagrant foul-athon. Apparently, everything was much worse than it originally appeared. Tyler Hansbrough was given a flagrant 2 foul (upgraded from a flagrant 1), Dexter Pittman was suspended for three games, and Udonis Haslem was suspended one game.
Let's get the inconsequential stuff out of the way first. Hansbrough won't miss any time, so even though his block attempt/face swipe on Dwayne Wade probably didn't warrant a flagrant 2 decision (would you throw a guy out of the game for making a play like that? I don't think so), it's whatever. And Dexter Pittman missing three games -- that's like saying Batman will also miss three games for the Heat, considering they spend roughly the same amount of time on the court. (It is interesting to note that Pittman's forearm to the throat counts less than half as much as, say, an elbow to the head by Metta World Peace.)
The Haslem decision, however, could be a season-changer. This could turn out to be one of the most important NBA playoff suspensions in the last few decades. Without Bosh, Haslem was playing a huge role for the Heat, with an inside presence and the ability to hit mid-range jumpers. In fact, in the Game 4, for all the accolades and praise LeBron James racked up for dropping 40 points, it was Haslem's 14 off the bench -- including some key fourth quarter jumpers -- that kept the Heat afloat.
Without Haslem, the onus to score, rebound and defend falls even more heavily on the shoulders of James and Wade. And for a team that had taken back the series momentum and will be looking to close it out in Game 6 on the road, missing two interior bench players (Pittman may have been able to step in for Haslem and at least be a big body, if not for his foolishness) is a devastating loss.
Frankly, these players should have been given their flagrant 2's at the time, been tossed from the game, and been ready for Game 6 tomorrow (minus Pittman, who frankly got off easy). If the Heat go on to lose this game and then the series, when they were so close to putting this second round nightmare behind them, a lot will be made of NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson's decision to ban the Heat big men.
Hard-nosed playoff basketball is dead, people. Whether that's good or bad probably depends on how old you are and what team you're rooting for this time of year. But everyone can agree that a series that comes down to suspensions is no series at all.
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