It appears as if the NBA under commissioner Adam Silver will be more lenient with regard to the rulebook than predecessor David Stern.
According to Pacers.com's Scott Agness, no suspensions have been handed down by the league following an incident between the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers in Game 6:
No suspensions, according to the NBA. Pacers and Hawks will be full-go for tomorrow’s Game 7.— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) May 2, 2014
Potential suspensions would have stemmed from an altercation that occurred shortly before halftime between Hawks forward Mike Scott and Pacers starting point guard George Hill.
Hill and Scott came face-to-face, which triggered a minor skirmish. Both players received technical fouls on the play, but neither will be suspended from Saturday's deciding Game 7.
Pacers fans can truly breathe a sigh of relief, though, because the fracas triggered a separate narrative entirely, which included All-Star forward Paul George. As Sports Illustrated's Matt Dollinger wrote:
Further review of the Hill-Scott altercation reveals that Pacers forward Paul George got up off the bench and stepped slightly forward during the clash. George didn’t come anywhere close to the dustup — Pacers assistant Popeye Jones held him and reserve guard Rasual Butler back — but that might not be enough to keep him available for Game 7 if the NBA chooses to strictly enforce one of its rules.
According to NBA rules: 'During an altercation, all players not participating in the game must remain in the immediate vicinity of their bench. Violators will be suspended, without pay, for a minimum of one game and fined up to $50,000.'
This rule had been strictly enforced under Stern, specifically during the 2007 playoffs in a series between the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns (skip to the 46-second mark of the embedded video).
During Game 4 of the hotly contested series, veteran big man Robert Horry hip-checked two-time MVP Steve Nash into the scorer's table. Amar'e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw—two huge rotational cogs at the time—leapt up from the bench to go to Nash's aid. Both were suspended one game as a result, per ESPN's Marc Stein.
According to Stein's article, Nash said he was too "disgusted" to comment, while Stoudemire said in a statement, "I am disappointed that the NBA looked at the letter of the rule and not the spirit of the rule."
Phoenix went on to lose the series, 4-2, while San Antonio eventually won its fourth title during the Tim Duncan era.
This time, the league decided against handing out suspensions. Barring George from a do-or-die Game 7 would have been a tremendous blow to Indy's chances at winning the series. It also would have been a severe oversight to what the rule aims to accomplish: preventing conflicts from escalating.
The first-round series between the Pacers and Hawks has been surprisingly competitive. At least fans know that the better team will win, since both parties will have their full roster intact.
If Atlanta can find a way to knock down open looks from three-point land, they'll undoubtedly pull the upset. If their woes from downtown continue, however, expect Indy to grit out the game and the series despite their evident struggles.