The flop flap ended Friday. At least if Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has his way.
A day after Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel said this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series could come down to whether the referees call charging violations when Heat defenders going flailing in the lane, Spoelstra fired back Friday.
“I could care less,” Spoelstra said of Vogel making flopping a series talking point. “We could care less.”
Guard Dwyane Wade said any attempt to create flop-gate is a non-starter.
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“We understand that it’s playoffs. There’s a lot of things to be said, mind games to be thrown out there,” he said. “We can’t let that affect us.
”We really don’t get into going back and forth too much with what people say. Everyone has their own opinion and they can use it whenever they want to, and that’s fine.”
Forward Udonis Haslem, who traditionally has led the Heat in drawing charging fouls on opponents, was stunned such an issue would be raised before the start of a series.
“I’m speechless,” he said. “He’s entitled to his opinion. A charge is a charge,”
Shane Battier, who led the Heat in charges drawn in the opening round against the New York Knicks, found Vogel’s approach amusing.
“It’s playoffs. It’s about basketball,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter what anyone believes or thinks or writes or spouts on TV, it’s decided on the court.”
Thursday at Banks Life Fieldhouse, where this series will shift after Games 1 and 2 at AmericanAirlines Arena, Vogel, without being prodded, made flopping a central issue in the teams’ first playoff meeting since 2004.
“They are the biggest flopping team in the NBA,” Vogel said. “It will be very interesting to see how the referees officiate this series and how much flopping they reward.
“Every time you drive to the basket, they’ve got guys not making a play on the ball, but sliding in front of drivers, often times they’re falling down before contact is even made. It’ll be very interesting to see how this series is officiated.”
That had Spoelstra and those particularly known for taking charges on the Heat stepping up Friday and, in essence, standing their ground.
“We’re a physical team,” Spoelstra said, “and part of our defensively philosophy is to put our bodies in front of offensive players and that’s what we’ve done now for years and years here in the Miami Heat organization.”
The Heat finished fourth in the league during the regular season in charges taken, with the Heat listing 88 such step-ins during the 66-game season, compared to 54 by opponents.
Haslem, according to the Heat’s tabulations, led the team with 25 charges taken during the regular season, with Battier second with 19 charges taken.
“I don’t pay it no mind,” Haslem said of Vogel trying to create a heightened awareness. “It’s part of the game of basketball. If a guy’s driving down the lane and you have the opportunity to step in front of a guy, take a hit and obviously get a foul on a guy, get a turnover, maybe the next time he thinks twice about driving to the basket and you step up and you take advantage of your opportunity. I think all teams teach that.”
During the first round against the New York Knicks, the Heat, according to their records, took nine charges compared to two by the Knicks, led by Battier, who took four.
“We’re going to play our defense,” Battier said. “We don’t have a huge amount of shot-blockers, so we have to find ways to play solid defense. And we have some great positional defenders on this team and that’s been a very big part of our game this year.”
According to the accounting of Hoopdata.com, the Heat is even more prolific in hitting the deck, with 155 charges taken during the regular season.
The Heat’s stars found it amusing that flopping somehow had become the takeoff point for the series.
“We know we play good defense,” forward Chris Bosh said. “We’re not known for flopping. We just need to concentrate on what we do. We’re going to play our defense. We’re going to play our game.”
Of Vogel’s comments, Wade said, “I don’t care. That’s not our focus. We’re focused on our game plan. We’re trying to win game one.”
LeBron James seconded that notion.
“We’re preparing for Game 1 on Sunday and that’s what it’s about, two really good teams,” he said of the 3:30 p.m. opener at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I mean, we’re a defensive-minded team.”
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