Wednesday, May 23, 2012


If you are following the NBA playoffs, and even if you aren’t, and live outside South Florida, you probably are rooting against the Miami Heat.
You rooted against the Heat in the opening round when it dispatched the New York Knicks in five games, and now you are hoping against hope that the Pacers will somehow rally to win Games 6 and 7 of the current series.
Frankly, it’s not going to happen. After a rather desultory start to the series, the Heat now is paying attention, and the Pacers are ailing. I’m not saying the Pacers can’t send the series back to Miami for a Game 7 by winning Thursday night, but I am saying  the Pacers won’t get the two wins they need to capture the series.
Not that that will matter to Heat-haters. They don’t care who beats the Heat as long as it’s somebody, which could turn out to be the Celtics, who lead their Eastern Conference semifinal 3-2 going into tonight’s game at Philadelphia, or it could be whichever team comes out of the West -- the San  Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This animosity toward the Heat goes back to the summer day in 2010 when LeBron James announced he was “taking his talents to South Beach” after spending seven years in Cleveland. That and the fact that fellow free agent signee Chris Bosh and current Heat star Dwyane Wade then went on an American Idol-like spree promising to bring six or seven titles to Miami.
It was unseemly behavior, at best. At worst, it was simply classless.
So the hate toward the Heat goes back a while.
Still, you’d have to think the flames of that passion have been fanned even more with the way things went down in Tuesday night’s game.
Early on, the Pacers’ Tyler Hansbrough was called for a  flagrant foul against Wade. Hansbrough, who wasn’t known for his finesse in his college days at North Carolina, started out fine with his attempted block of Wade’s layup, but then he came down hard on the Heat superstar, striking him on the head and giving him a cut over his eye.
That, of course, called for retaliation on the part of the Heat, and Udonis Haslem provided it when he ignored any attempt at a legitimate defensive play and simply came down hard with both arms at Hansbrough’s head as Hansbrough went up for a layup.
Then, during mop-up time in the 32-point Heat rout, Dexter Pittman leveled the Pacers’ Lance Stephenson with a brutal elbow as Stephenson raced to the boards for a potential rebound. It was a vicious play that easily could have had more series consequences, but Stephenson seems all right now.
Surprisingly, the officials did not eject Pittman, or Haslem for that matter, which would seem to have been the proper call.
Two plays, more fuel for the Heat-haters. 
As physical as the Pacers’ own approach to the series has been, the Heat still very much remain the bad guys. 

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