Heading into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals without forward Udonis Haslem, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called out the NBA, claiming the league has failed to crack down on hard fouls against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Haslem will sit out Thursday night in Indiana as the Heat look to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the second straight year.
The veteran forward received a one-game suspension for a hard foul in Game 5 on Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough, who just before had raked Wade across the face on a drive to the basket, opening a cut above Wade’s right eye.
Speaking at his team’s morning shootaround in Indianapolis, Spoelstra suggested the Hansbrough foul was only the latest example of an opposing player hitting one of his two superstars in the face or head.
"The league does not have a problem with hard fouls on our two main guys," Spoelstra said, according to the Palm Beach Post.
"In nine games now there’s been over a dozen hard fouls to the face, some of the tomahawk variety, some have drawn blood. They don’t have a problem with it, so we don’t have a problem with it. We’ll focus on what we can control."
Haslem has insisted that even though he sent Hansbrough crashing to the floor, he was going for the ball, and he is appealing the penalty to get back $35,000 in game pay. Hansbrough was not disciplined for the foul.
Seldom-used center Dexter Pittman also is suspended for three games for a vicious elbow to the throat of Pacers guard Lance Stephenson in the waning seconds of Tuesday’s game in Miami.
In Game 3, Stephenson made headlines for flashing the "choke" sign on the bench after James missed two crucial free throws.
Despite Pittman appearing to wink at his teammates on the bench after the flagrant foul, Spoelstra insisted there were no instructions given to target Stephenson.
"He made a bad foul. It’s not indicative of anything else than him trying to be physical," Spoelstra said. "Obviously, we don’t condone anything that doesn’t have to do with the game of basketball."