Watch any sport too closely and you will be driven to distraction by broadcasters whose job it is to find a narrative that keeps the attention of the casual fan. We fanatics will watch no matter the storyline. In that way, broadcasters are like job resumes. If you are expecting the truth, you are missing the point.
In last night’s Miami Heat blowout of the Indianapolis-based Danny Granger-led guerrilla warriors — known for their fierce ability to rush up to opponents and speak words which leave opponents unaffected, but annoy referees — we had such a narrative. The narrative was that Miami’s Dexter Pittman committed a premeditated dirty play against the Pacer’s Lance Stephenson for a choke signal Stephenson had directed against LeBron James earlier in the series. I don’ think the facts support that narrative.
Here is the 4th quarter game log involving the 2 players:
- 5:54 – Stephenson enters game
- 3:12 – Pittman enters the game
- 2:50 – Pittman assists on a Howard jumper
- 2:40 – Stephenson misses layup
- 1:46 – Stephenson misses jump shot
- 0:57 – Lance Stephenson personal foul (Norris Cole draws the foul)
- 0:47 – Stephenson assists on a dunk
- 0:30 – Stephenson misses jump shot
- 0:29 – Indiana offensive rebound
- 0:28 – James Jones blocks Dahntay Jones’s 8-foot jumper
- 0:21 – Dexter Pittman blocks Lance Stephenson’s 6-foot jumper
- 0:19 – A.J. Price offensive rebound
- 0:19 – A.J. Price makes 18-foot jumper
- 0:19 – Dexter Pittman flagrant foul type 1 (Lance Stephenson draws the foul)
To believe that Pittman’s foul was premeditated, you would have to believe that Pittman showed incredible patience and a Nostradamus-like ability to determine that he would get another shot at Stephenson after he blocked his shot with 21 seconds left.
Here’s a narrative closer to the truth, but not as appealing to broadcasters or highlight reels. Looking around to block out someone during Indiana’s 4th shot attempt in a possession nearing the end of the game, Pittman sees Stephenson coming in for a rebound. Pittman probably could not believe his luck. Aside from the LeBron choke sign and the near Juwan Howard altercation, Stephenson had just given Norris Cole an elbow to the throat. So Pittman moves over, his own elbows high, to nail the guy with a hard body-blow box-out. What he doesn’t anticipate, is Stephenson launching himself as though he was a finalist in a Kia dunk contest on what turned out to be a made shot. As additional proof of the miscalculation, note that Pittman was the only one who actually ended up on the floor.
The miscalculation led to a foul which certainly looked like a dirty play. But the facts don’t support the narrative that the foul was premeditated, otherwise it would have happened earlier and Pittman would not have ended up in such an awkward position. I’m glad Stephenson’s OK, but I’m even happier Pittman nailed him after his cheap shot on Cole right in front of the Heat bench.
Flagrant foul? Of course. Suspendable act? Yes. Premeditated dirty play? Not based on the facts.