After a Game 5 that featured three flagrant foul calls, the Miami Heat were dealt the worst of the blows after the game when league officials announced that both forwards Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman would be suspended for Game 6 in Indiana.
Pittman was slapped with an additional two games as well.
The Pittman suspension isn’t a huge obstacle for the Heat to overcome, but losing Haslem for a potential series-clinching Game 6 is a huge blow to Miami’s chances on the road. The team is already playing without Chris Bosh, who injured his abdomen during Game 1 and hasn’t played since. The Heat have never had much depth up front, and will now be forced with playing LeBron James at even more minutes at the four, exposing Shane Battier to the interior and, amazingly, activating seldom-used big man Eddy Curry to add more depth to the bench.
Anybody enter this series thinking Eddy Curry could potentially be a difference-maker for the Miami Heat? Anyone? No?
The truth to the matter is that even if the Heat drop Game 6 on the road, they’ll still likely get the better of Indiana back in Miami for a Game 7. However, what these suspensions do show us, yet again, is how dearth the Miami bench truly is.
Look at the teams remaining in these playoffs. The Heat clearly have the worst bench of the bunch. Even Philadelphia has players they could turn to in times of injury or slumps to fill voids in their starting line-up. They don’t have the star power up top that Miami does, but they run deep on the pine.
Let’s say Boston knocks the 76ers out tonight in Game 6. Looking at what the Heat have to offer and what the Celtics counter with, is there any way the Celtics wouldn’t be favored in that series? They’re getting incredible play from Kevin Garnett, and Brandon Bass has proven to be a force down low that teams need to start game-planning for. Even Greg Stiemsma is proving to be a valuable assest at the center spot for the Celtics. Unless the Heat get Chris Bosh back, and quickly, how do they compete with a team like the Celtics that have the veteran leadership and rings to prove they can play when it matters most?
Does the Haslem/Pittman suspensions hurt in the immediate short-term? Absolutely. Will the Miami Heat still win this series in either 6 or 7 games? I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would pick the Pacers over the Heat.
But, long-term, looking at how all of this may stack up, are the Miami Heat likely to make the NBA Finals?
Unfortunately for Miami (and fortunately for the rest of the known universe), it doesn’t appear to be in the cards anymore.