– Amid Tuesday’s elbows and shoves and fouls and every brand of playoff blood you wanted to see – bad, boiled and even spilled above Dwyane Wade’s right eye – a prettier, series-tilting event occurred.
The Heat showed up.
All of them, for once.
This wasn’t just about the Big Two. Oh, LeBron James and Wade again were the engine behind the Heat’s easy 115-83 win in Game 5 that leaves them one victory from advancing past Indiana.
But this night was about the 11 Others, too. When’s the last time you could say that?
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Mario Chalmers had a career-high 11 rebounds. Udonis Haslem, playing with nine stitches above his right eye, scored in double-digits for the second straight game for the first time since February.
No one represented this added look of The Others more than Shane Battier. He took the opening pass on the Heat’s opening possession and did something he hasn’t much against Indiana.
He made the shot. A 3-pointer, no less. That equaled the number of shots Battier made in the previous two games.
A few seconds later, he made another 3-pointer. This one ended the storyline of the Heat falling behind each game this series.
A few minutes later, Battier made yet another. That gave him more points (nine) in the Tuesday’s first quarter than the previous four games (eight). Some games are decided in the final minutes. This one was in the opening minutes.
“That makes any team tough in the playoffs, when you get that third and fourth and fifth player going,” said Battier, who finished with 13 points. “We had that going this game.”
The Heat led the entire way. And everyone contributed. How else do you shoot a franchise-playoff record 61.4 percent on field goals?
For once, it was Indiana with some bad luck, too. Danny Granger went down with an injured ankle and left the game. Forward David West went down with another injured knee and also left the game.
Can they recover physically for Thursday’s Game 6?
Will they recover emotionally from this blowout?
They don’t have an answer for The Big Two. Wade is back to being Wade, as Tuesday again showed. He had had 28 points. And LeBron was his usual force with 30 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
In one sequence, LeBron threw a baseball pass to a fast-breaking Wade for a dunk. Wade then threw a length-of-thecourt pass to LeBron for a dunk. The crowd stood. The noise fell. That’s the show you come to see.
But what defined this as a playoff game, again, was the edge the game came with. Great and chippy plays kept alternating in what’s become a playoff series with everything.
For Tuesday’s game, Heat employees wore white bandages over their right eye for the nine stitches Udonis Haslem took in Game 4. Then in the second quarter Wade was bloodied above his right eye on a flagrant foul by Tyler Hansbrough.
“I took a shot that was uncalled for,” said Wade, who didn’t receive any stitches.
The next time Hansbrough touched the ball, Haslem slapped him hard enough for a flagrant foul himself. The league will review that and there’s a chance Haslem won’t play in Game 6.
“I was making a play on the ball,” Haslem said. “Check my rap sheet. Nine years, no one’s accused me of playing dirty.”
Dexter Pittman surely won’t play the next game. In the meaningless minutes at the end, he gave Indiana’s Lance Stephenson a hard elbow. It was Stephenson who gave “choke” sign at LeBron earlier this series.
Now Pittman answered.
“There were three, hard physical fouls,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “No one wants to do anything but play the game.”
This is how it works in competitive playoff series. There has been method to Indiana’s edgy antics, too. They don’t have the elite players the Heat has.
“Two people are bleeding,” Haslem said. “They’re both on our side.”
But it’s Indiana that bleeding this series. And it’s a cut they might not be able to close.