If the Thunder and Heat meet in the NBA Finals, there will be plenty of animosity between the two.
Heat forward Udonis Haslem only fanned the flames Thursday morning when, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, he appeared on a Miami radio station and called out Thunder center Kendrick Perkins.
“I think sometimes people just use the TVs and the cameras and the crowd, you know, to put on a show,” Haslem is quoted as saying. “I don't think he's all that he shows out there on the court. I think anybody can be a tough guy with a thousand people watching on TV and referees who call fouls and stop the game and different things like that. I don't see him being any tough guy that he puts on the show to be at all.”
Haslem's comments were in response to Wednesday's physical and, at times, hostile battle between the two teams. Perkins delivered a hard foul against Dwyane Wade in the second quarter that knocked Wade to the floor and resulted in Perkins' NBA-leading 12th technical foul of the season. Minutes after Perkins' foul, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook then delivered a hard foul to LeBron James, grabbing the Heat's star by the shoulder and pulling him down to prevent a breakaway dunk.
Haslem was one of several Heat players who took exception to both fouls and began jawing back and forth with Kevin Durant from the bench. Juwan Howard also entered into the trash talk with Durant. In explaining the jawing, Haslem again brought it back to Perkins.
“I voiced my opinion a little bit,” Haslem said. “Not entitled to say what I said last night, but I got a little bit off my chest. We're I'm from, all the talking and playing like that, if some point it comes to a situation where you've got to back it up, he's never had to back it up, because obviously referees always step in.
“If we were playing at the park, I don't think he'd be doing that.”
Wade also addressed the physicality following Wednesday's game.
“We're not fake tough guys, we're not TV thugs,” Wade said. “We go out and play basketball. When it's time to get into the fight, we have a lot of guys who can get into it.”
The Thunder had an optional practice session Thursday in Indianapolis, and players weren't available to the media.
But this marks the fifth time in the past three seasons that tempers have flared between the Thunder and Heat.
Two years ago, Westbrook got into a small skirmish with then-Heat center Jermaine O'Neal during an early season game at Miami. Last year, Durant called Heat forward Chris Bosh a “fake tough guy” to the media after the two exchanged words during a game in Oklahoma City.
In early February, James drew the ire of Perkins for tweeting about Blake Griffin's highlight dunk against him. Perkins ripped James for constantly seeking attention and the world's approval rather than playing to win a championship like other great players of yesterday and today. And on March 25 in Oklahoma City, Perkins swung his leg following a dunk and kicked Wade in the face, prompting a lengthy stare down by Wade.
THUNDER CAN CLINCH DIVISION TITLE FRIDAY
With a win Friday at Indiana, the Thunder can clinch its second straight Northwest Division title.
Oklahoma City is currently 11 games up on second-place Denver in the division, with both teams having 12 games remaining. The only way that the Thunder could not capture the division crown is if it loses its final 12 games and the Nuggets win all 12 of their remaining games. That means the Thunder's magic number is one, which requires only one more Thunder win or one more Nuggets loss for OKC to secure the division title.
If the Thunder drops its final 12 games and the Nuggets go 11-1 to tie Oklahoma City at 40-26, the Thunder would still win the division title since it already owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Nuggets after winning two out of three in the season series.
The Thunder won its first Northwest Division title last year after going 55-27, beating second-place Denver by five games.
The Thunder will face the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It is the second game of this two-game road trip. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.