Miami Heat defeats Indiana Pacers, takes 3-2 lead in series
May 23, 2012 (Menafn - The Miami Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Finally, an easy one.
The Heat's grind-it-out series with the Pacers got a little less stressful Tuesday night. Miami coasted to a 115-83 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series. It was the Heat's third-largest margin of victory in a playoff game.
The Heat can close out the series on Thursday with a victory in Indianapolis.
"We really have to commit to keeping this edge we've had for two games knowing we're going into a hostile environment," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
LeBron James dominated once again, and Dwyane Wade looked as fresh as ever in what turned out to be a statement game for the Heat after a series of hard fouls. It all started with Wade facedown on the court in the second quarter.
Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough sent Wade to the ground with a hard foul with 10:23 left in the quarter. A replay revealed that Hansbrough raked his fingernails across Wade's eyes, drawing blood above Wade's right eyebrow.
"Obviously, my face is not the ball," said Wade when asked if he thought Hansbrough was making a play on the ball. "I think it was uncalled for because I had already been fouled once."
Hansbrough's claw work marked the second game in a row the Pacers have bloodied a Heat player. In Game 4, Pacers reserve Lou Amundson gashed Haslem in the head with an elbow. The cut required stitches.
Apparently, Haslem had seen enough.
Less than a minute after Hansbrough's flagrant foul on Wade, Haslem went after Hansbrough with what looked like a deliberate shot to the face. Hansbrough was in the act of shooting but it appeared Haslem worried little about trying to block the shot. Instead, he crushed Hansbrough with both arms.
Hansbrough's head snapped back as he went to the ground. Haslem was whistled for a flagrant 1. From there, the Heat outscored the Pacers 83-58. After the game, Hansbrough said he wasn't sure if Haslem's foul was intentional.
"Check my rap sheet," Haslem said, when asked if his foul was retaliatory. "I play hard. That's it."
Pacers in pain
Pacers forward David West, who had 10 points and four rebounds, complained of dirty play by the Heat after the game. He said a Heat player "dove" into his knee at one point in the game.
"But I can take care of myself," West said. "I don't need referees protecting me."
Danny Granger left the game with a sprained left ankle in the second quarter after landing on top of James' foot. He finished with 10 points and his status is day-to-day, according to Pacers coach Frank Vogel.
The outcome was long decided but the hard shots kept coming. Dexter Pittman sent a nasty elbow to the face of reserve Lance Stephenson in the final seconds of the game. Pittman was assessed a flagrant 1, but the NBA could review the play and suspend Pittman for Game 5. The same goes for Haslem and Hansbrough.
Stephenson is the Pacers' little-used reserve who made headlines in Game 3 when he made the choking sign after a missed free throw by James.
"There were three hard fouls in this game, and the league will review them," Spoelstra said. "We thought [Haslem] was making a play on the ball. This is a physical series. Nobody wants to make it into anything more than that."
James led the Heat with 30 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. He has missed back-to-back triple-doubles by a combined three assists. James left the game with 4:19 remaining and received a standing ovation from the crowd. James' early exit triggered the arena's customary seat cover toss. White seat covers rained down from the upper deck as James lifted his hand to the crowd to acknowledge the applause.
James has scored 70 points to go along with 26 rebounds and 17 assists in his past two games.
In the groove
Wade had another throwback playoff game, going 10 of 17 from the field for 28 points. He struggled from the free-throw line (7 of 13) but made up for it with vintage dashes to the basket and superb transition play with James. The Heat outscored the Pacers 22-2 in fast-break points and outrebounded Indiana 49-35.
"We want to continue to defend," James said. "When we defend and rebound we're a good team and it allows us to get into our break."
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