Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game Five

Spoelstra, Heat frustrated by hard fouls to Wade, LeBron


Tyler Hansbrough followed through with a hard foul on Dwyane Wade in Game 5 that got ball but on the follow through got Wade’s face and drew blood. Hansbrough will be playing in Game 6.

Udonis Haslem followed through on a hard foul on Hansbrough in that game — two hands that got ball but was clearly intended as a physical message — and Haslem is suspended for Game 6.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra complained Thursday like Heat fans did on call in shows and twitter all day the day before — it’s an unfair double standard. That Dwyane Wade and Lebron James put up with too many hard hits that go unpunished. From ESPN.

“The league does not have a problem with hard fouls on our two main guys,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Thursday before taking on the Pacers in Game 6.

“In nine games now there’s been over a dozen hard fouls to the face, some of the tomahawk variety, some have drawn blood. They don’t have a problem with it so we don’t have a problem with it. We’ll focus on what we can control.”

The Pacers play a physical style, and it clearly has worked fairly well on the Heat. That nine game reference by Spoelstra refers back to the Pacers regular season games against the Heat as well.

To me the league got it right. Well, mostly right, Dexter Pittman should have gotten more games for his flagrant elbow but nobody is really arguing that suspension (not even Spoelstra, who said Pittman went rogue).

Hansbrough made a playoff foul. Hard but he played the ball. Haslem’s foul was clearly retaliatory — he has never gone for a two-handed block before in his life. I could go either way on suspending Haslem, but I have no problem with it.

And if you’re the Heat looking to retaliate for physical play, you may want to pick your spots better because not having Haslem for Game 6 really hurts.

But if the Heat need to go with the “us against the world” thing to motivate themselves, go for it. Every team does it.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.