Heat-Pacers angry before the fight
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI — These Eastern Conference finals were already marked by physical play, even before Chris “Birdman” Andersen got involved Thursday night.
Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert had called out Miami Heat forward Shane Battier for below-the-belt play. LeBron James had fouled out in Game 4, his fifth foul-out in 10 NBA seasons. Players on both sides had landed fines for flopping.
Players have described the rough-and-tumble environment as unsurprising; by Game 5 in a playoff series that sends the winner to the NBA Finals, of course both teams are doing whatever it takes to gain any advantage.
“Just two extremely physical basketball teams,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel had said before Game 5, proving prophetic. “When you have teams like that collide, that’s what this series looks like.”
With just over nine minutes left in the second quarter of Thursday’s Game 5, which the Heat won 90-79, the physicality came to a boiling point as Andersen lowered his right shoulder to body check Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough. After Hansbrough got up and faced him, Andersen approached him, bumped him in the chest then shoved him. An official rushed over to separate the two, who each received a technical foul.
Hansbrough said after the game he had no idea what prompted the play.
“I don’t know what his deal is,” Hansbrough said. “Was I surprised? No, I wasn’t surprised. I was caught off-guard.”
The incident was reviewed by the officials, and Andersen was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul for unnecessary contact. Hansbrough hit one of two free throws, at the time the Pacers’ first points from a player not named Paul George or Roy Hibbert. Shortly after the altercation, Andersen flew in to block a Hansbrough layup attempt. He finished the night with four points, four rebounds and two blocks and extended his streak of 18 consecutive made field goals, hitting every shot he’s taken this series.
But should Andersen have even remained in the game? That’s a question the NBA will likely consider over the next 48 hours, when it reviews the play to decide whether it merits further punishment. Earlier Thursday, the league stepped in to fine … [For more on Heat-Pacers was angry before Birdman-Hansbrough fight, click here.]