After a Game 5 that saw a few vicious flagrant fouls, the NBA has suspended Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem for Game 6 of the team's best-of-seven series against the Indiana Pacers, and he will be sorely missed.
Haslem was suspended after this flagrant foul on Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough early in the second quarter, and it doesn't come as a surprise to anyone but Haslem, apparently. He believes he made a play on the ball, but I digress.
In Game 4 and Game 5, Haslem scored a combined 24 points on 10-for-12 shooting and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Heat in a mere 42 minutes of court time. You can bet that the Heat are going to wish he hadn't lost his cool in Game 5, because they're going to struggle without his interior presence.
Since Chris Bosh went down, Haslem has basically been the only down-low threat for the Heat. With Bosh out, he's the team's best-shooting big man. In the last two games of the series, just three of his 10 buckets were from three feet or less. He shot impeccably well in Game 4 and Game 5, raining jumpers from 15, 16 and 17 feet.
Bosh and Haslem are both out. That means that Juwan Howard is going to be seeing the court a lot more in Game 6 and I would be dumbfounded if Frank Vogel and the Pacers didn't find a way to exploit him every time he steps on the floor. Maybe we'll even get to see Eddy Curry tonight (cut to Heat fans wide-eyed and terrified).
Howard and Ronny Turiaf are the antithesis of what you want to see on the offensive end and Heat fans should close their eyes whenever the two touch the ball. The two aren't pushovers, but they don't bring the same toughness that co-captain Haslem brings every night and that'll be a huge problem when Roy Hibbert starts to Heat up early without a real defender on him.
The Heat have dominated the glass with Haslem in the game, as he uses his 6'8", 235-pound frame to assert himself. James was already seeing some time as a power forward after Bosh went down, and I don't think Erik Spoelstra is too confident in his other big men, so we might see him at the position early and often in Game 6.
Spoelstra was already having problems juggling his lineups this series and that's going to be exacerbated with this now-thin Heat rotation. Now I'm not saying that the Heat won't be able to pull this one out on the road, but they'll need another 70 points from James and Dwyane Wade to do it. They'll be in front of a hostile crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and it wouldn't surprise me to see the Pacers take this series back to Miami with some momentum.