Early in the second quarter of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers, things almost got really ugly. While the Pacers had the ball, Pacers wingman Paul George accidentally bumped into Heat forward/center Chris “Birdman” Andersen. Andersen didn’t see who had run into him, but he was riled up about it.
That’s when Birdman went a tad berserk on Tyler Hansbrough, whom Andersen wrongly assumed had initiated the original contact. Andersen delivered a vicious hip-check to Hansbrough that sent him sprawling to the ground. Obviously perturbed (and likely confused), Hansbrough got up and stepped towards Birdman. That’s when Andersen delivered a full-on shove to the chest of the Pacers big man that likely would have knocked him down had Roy Hibbert not been there to catch him.
The referees and coaches did a nice job of separating the two quickly after the incident, thankfully. On the play Andersen was given a flagrant-1, which most people agreed was far too kind of a reprimanding, and Hansbrough was given a technical foul, which confused the majority of people watching the game.
The NBA has now stepped in and taken action, though, and upgraded Andersen’s foul to a flagrant-2, which would have resulted in his ejection had that been the call during the game. Because of the penalty for that type of foul, Andersen has now been suspended by the league for the crucial Game 6 of the series on Saturday night.
There’s not really much of a question that Birdman deserved to be punished for his inexcusable actions. However, this will leave the Heat at a distinct disadvantage coming into Game 6. The most crucial battle in this series has been on the interior. Given that Andersen is their most reliable big man with legitimate size, that’s really going to hurt them for Game 6. Barring another superhuman LeBron James performance, this suspension will likely lead to a seventh game in this series.