Will the Birdman have his wings clipped for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals?
Heat center Chris Andersen received a flagrant foul 1 for knocking Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough to the ground, a move that started an altercation between the two players during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday.
With a little more than nine minutes remaining in the second quarter and the Pacers leading 29-25, Andersen appeared to intentionally veer into Hansbrough's path in the backcourt as Indiana pushed the ball up the court. A hard bump from Andersen's right shoulder sent Hansbrough flying to the ground. When Hansbrough returned to his feet, Andersen walked over to confront him and the two players bumped their chests together. At that point, Andersen shoved Hansbrough with both arms in the chest, sending him backwards, before referees, coaches and teammates could intervene. It's possible that Andersen's initial bump was a mistaken reaction to a light shove in the back from Paul George, who nudged Andersen from behind during the rebounding sequence before corralling the ball and taking off the other way.
Andersen received a flagrant foul 1 after a video review of the play by the officials. Double technical fouls were also assessed to Andersen and Hansbrough. Both players were allowed to remain in the game.
A flagrant foul 1 designation applies to fouls deemed “unnecessary” while a flagrant foul 2 applies to plays that are both “unnecessary and excessive.” All flagrant fouls are reviewed by the NBA league office and subject to the possibility of further discipline that could include a fine and/or suspension. Game 6 is set for Indiana on Saturday night.
After the game, which Miami won 90-79 to take a 3-2 series lead, Andersen did not make himself available to the media.
The Palm Beach Post reported that Hansbrough was unsure what prompted Andersen to start the altercation. CBSSports.com reported that Hansbrough also wasn't sure whether Andersen should be suspended for Game 6.
"I don't know," he said. "That's for you guys to decide. In my eyes, it wasn't a basketball play."
Virtually everyone else associated with both teams pleaded ignorant about the exchange.
"I don't really want to say anything about any calls or any officiating," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "I didn't see anything. [The referees] watched it on the tape, so I'm sure they made the right decision."
Pacers forward Paul George and center Roy Hibbert both got in line behind their coach.
"I don't know what really went on," George said. "I just turned around, and it was confrontation. So I didn't know what really happened during that play."
Hibbert added: "I have to go back and watch the film. I know there was a little tussle or something like that. I just restrained Tyler. But I really didn't see exactly what happened."
Andersen finished with four points (on two-for-two shooting) and four rebounds in 18 minutes. His absence, should he be suspended, would be huge for Miami, as they are already over-matched in the interior against the big, bruising Pacers. The Heat's big man rotation currently includes Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Andersen, with Shane Battier getting just eight minutes on Thursday night.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did not address Andersen's potential availability for Game 6 and, like Vogel, stated that he wanted to review the altercation before speaking about it at length.
"I didn't see it, so I'm going to have to see the film on it," Spoelstra said. "It's a physical series. But nobody wants to take it over the top."
Meanwhile, Bulls center Nazr Mohammed received a flagrant foul 2 and was ejected from Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinals series for shoving Heat forward LeBron James to the court.
Shortly after Andersen was assessed a flagrant 1 and allowed to stay in the game, Mohammed posted a series of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" images on his verified Twitter account. Heat guard Dwyane Wade avoided a suspension for delivering an elbow to Pacers guard Lance Stephenson during Game 2 that was upgraded to a flagrant foul 1 upon review by the league office.