So my cable reception ended up getting screwed up last night sometime in the third quarter and I did not see the end of last night's game five. As a result, I did not see or hear about Miami's Dexter Pittman's hard foul on Indiana's Lance Stephenson in the closing moments of the game. I have since watched the play and I wish that I could say that I was shocked at how the officials judged the play, but I'm not because they also judged the play a Flagrant "1".
This foul was even more absurdly called than the Udonis Haslem foul discussed in my previous post. Stephenson was driving toward the basket and Pittman steps across the lane and throws an elbow at Stephenson's head/neck area, knocking him off balance. You can see video of the play here, courtesy of NBAHighlight247. (Additionally, here are the videos of the Hansbrough foul and the Haslem foul mentioned in the previous post, again courtesy of NBAHighlight247, which were not available at the time of my last post.)
What the officials did in calling those plays in last night's game was absolutely gutless. If those referees are unable to judge the differences between those three plays, then they do not qualify to officiate basketball games of any level, and particularly not NBA games. People can disagree about whether the Hansbrough foul should have been called a flagrant. I thought it was borderline; I thought it could have been called either just a foul or a Flagrant "1". And at halftime of the game, there was a disagreement in the Inside the NBA studio where at least Charles Barkley thought that the Hansbrough foul was not a flagrant foul, but it certainly was not a "borderline" Flagrant "2" foul as Steve Kerr had judged during the game. However, the plays by Haslem and Pittman were clearly Flagrant "2" fouls and both should have been immediately ejected. I am definitely at an absolute loss as to how Pittman was not ejected.
If the NBA has any spine, three things should happen. First of all, the officials that worked last night's game should not be allowed to work any more games this postseason. They have demonstrated an inability to judge the degree of severity of fouls and this cannot be allowed to persist in the NBA playoffs. The second thing that the NBA should do is elevate Haslem's foul to a Flagrant "2" and suspend him from Game 6 of this series. Had Haslem been charged appropriately during Game 5 and subsequently ejected, the suspension would not be necessary. But since it seems clear to me that Haslem intentionally took a shot at Hansbrough's head, he should now be punished with a one game suspension. Finally, Pittman should be suspended for multiple games. I think that Tim Legler suggested three to four games, saying that it should not be as severe as Metta World Peace's seven game suspension for elbowing James Harden in the head due to World Peace's previous history. That is a fair assessment, but I would disagree because at least in the case of World Peace it was a spur of the moment kind of thing and I do not think there was premeditation. Pittman seemed to have time to think about what he was doing and decided to follow through with a dangerous elbow to another player's throat area. I think that Pittman deserves a suspension at least as long as World Peace's seven games.
That is what the NBA should do if the organization has any spine. However, as the NBA seems frequently to appear to try to protect their glamor teams and players, I'm highly skeptical as to whether they will level a stiff, but deserved penalty to their darling Miami Heat.