Early in the second quarter last night, Tyler Hansbrough bloodied Dwyane Wade’s forehead. As Flash drove for a layup, Tyler delivered a vicious Thor-hammer-like downward thrust that either knocked the ball out of Wade’s hands or was aimed towards where the ball was before Wade apparently double-clutched (I can’t tell which … little of both probably) and continued into Dwyane’s face. At the time, I mentioned it looked like he had managed to combine Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s 2×4 smash and eye gouge in the same motion, all while blocking a shot. It was clearly a flagrant foul. But as somebody on Twitter mentioned (I forget who), it mostly appeared that Hansbrough was reckless. He was out-of-control trying to block Wade’s shot and the result was, without question, a flagrant foul. Really, who knows what was going on in Hansbrough’s mind, but the result was an unrestrained, ferocious, illegal shot block attempt that messed up Dwyane’s face.
Less than 60 seconds of game time later, Hansbrough found himself with the ball on the right block trying to score. He attacked the rim. Then Udonis Haslem attacked him. With two arms, he brutally stuck Hansbrough on the right bicep and shoulder as he released a jump hook. Unless Udonis has some severe timing and depth perception issues, he probably wasn’t making a play on the ball. He was unleashing a foul. Giving the play’s timing, what has transpired in this series so far, the was the two-arm strike was carried out and the distance from the ball the hit occurred, it seems overwhelmingly clear that Haslem was intentionally fouling Hansbrough. It is hard to believe that — coming from a hard-nosed, blue-collar, fearless player like Udonis — this was anything other than retribution for what Tyler had just done to Wade, who has been the only player that Haslem has played with every season during his nine-year professional career. In 2003, they entered the league together. In 2006, they won a title together. In 2010, when there was no other option for Haslem to continue to play in Miami, his home town and the largest city in the only state he has ever represented as a basketball player, he took a salary cut to continue to play for the Heat. With Wade.
For all the condemnation thrown at Haslem for the foul, it was a measured way to carry out retribution, if that’s what he did. He obviously could have separated Hansbrough’s shoulder, ruptured his bicep or messed up his elbow. So you have to question the decision to foul another player that hard. But he seemingly made a split-second decision to send Tyler a message to never again mess with his Hall of Fame little buddy and hammered Hansbrough on the arm. Call that a dick move, but it wasn’t out-of-bounds head-hunting. That really is just a hardcore, 1990s foul.
Make no mistake, by 2012 NBA rules, he should have been tossed. There is really no disputing this. The NBA rule book is clear, requiring a flagrant 2 and immediate ejection be called “if contact committed against a player, with or without the ball, is interpret-ed to be unnecessary and excessive.” Haslem’s foul was unarguably both.
Late in the game, Game 3 starter Dexter Pittman decided to get in on the action. The backstory is that Lance Stephenson had made a choke sign at LeBron in Game 3 after James missed some free throws. Miami’s— and really, earth’s — elder statesman Juwan Howard took umbrage with this and had words with Stephenson during shootaround before Game 4. Juwan reportedly again tried to mix it up with Lance not long after. (The two actually have a history of animosity that dates back to the regular season.)
Whether this is related or not is beside the fact to what Pittman did. In a loose ball situation in garbage time, as both men were in the paint looking to get a rebound, Pittman throw a forearm shiver at Stephenson. It was clearly not a basketball play. Lance didn’t have the ball and this wasn’t a box out. He threw a flying forearm at Stephenson because he decided to throw a flying forearm at Stephenson. It says something that the force of the throwing the blow knocked Dexter to the floor.
The league will undoubtedly review all these incidents and perhaps increase the classifications of the three fouls, levy fines and perhaps even hand out suspensions. My guess is that all three fouls will be upgraded to flagrant 2s, and that both Heat players will be suspended for Game 6. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pittman is suspended for multiple games. I really have no idea on Hansbrough. He may not deserve a suspension but he could get caught up in the league’s attempt to make sure nothing even more excessive happens in Game 6 in Indiana on Thursday.
Ed note: Since first publishing, the Tyler foul explanation has been edited somewhat after re-watching it 20 more times. Still think Tyler might have gotten a good piece of the ball but really can’t tell.