In a series with more twists and turns than your average M. Night Shyamalan movie, it's the Indiana Pacers that find themselves on life support as they get ready to host the Miami Heat in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series.
The unpredictable Heat orchestrated a second straight dominating performance on Tuesday in South Florida during a 115-83 rout to take a 3-2 series lead over the Pacers.
The contest didn't come without collateral damage to both sides, however.
With star forward/center Chris Bosh already sidelined with a strained lower abdominal muscle, the Heat are down two more big men tonight after both Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman were suspended by the NBA for their actions on Tuesday.
Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough, who started the fireworks in Game 5 with a hard foul on Miami's Dwyane Wade that opened a cut over the superstar's right eye early in the second quarter, was not suspended, although the league upgraded his foul to a flagrant-2 on Wednesday.
Moments after Hansbrough's action, Haslem played policeman and went after the Pacers' reserve forward, resulting in a one-game suspension.
The chippiness continued late in the blowout when Pittman took out Indiana backup guard Lance Stephenson in the final seconds with an unprovoked, vicious elbow that got the center three games on the sidelines.
In the contest itself, the duo of LeBron James and Wade went to work again by combining for 58 points in the thumping that resulted in the Heat making a franchise playoff record 61 percent of their shots.
"They kicked our butts," Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said. "You don't get two games for a blowout. We just have to regroup, come back and get Game 6."
James scored 30 points to go with 10 rebounds and eight assists while Wade added 28 points in the rout. Shane Battier was an unlikely spark with 13 points and also helped limit David West to 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
"A lot of good things tonight, but we have to focus on the next one." Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Danny Granger, Indiana's leading scorer in the regular season, scored 10 points before leaving with an ankle injury early in the third quarter.
West also sprained his knee in the fourth, but by that time the Heat had already pulled away. Wade and James carried the load during an 11-2 run midway through the third, with James bookending the spurt on a pair of dunks and Wade scoring the seven points between.
James' last slam came off a Wade outlet pass and gave Miami a commanding 65-47 lead with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the third.
The margin was 76-57 heading to the final stanza, and the only drama in the fourth came in the closing seconds when Pittman threw the elbow into the neck of Stephenson.
"Hard fouls are part of the playoffs," Vogel said Wednesday. "Fouls to the head have no place in this game, not by us, not by Miami, not by any other team in any other series. With all the concussion research that's been going on over the last few years it's a very serious matter and it just doesn't have any place in the game."
The little-used Stephenson, of course, made headlines when he mimed he was choking after James missed two critical free throws in Indiana's Game 3 win. Stephenson has since apologized for his gesture, but the events seemed to have changed the momentum in the series.
"It's a physical series," Spoelstra said. "No one wants to make it anything more than that."
Certainly not Pacers' basketball chief Larry Bird, the NBA Executive of the Year who criticized his team for being "soft" in Game 5.
"I can't believe my team went soft," Bird told the Indianapolis Star. "S-O-F- T. I'm disappointed. I never thought it would happen."
James for one wasn't buying Bird's complaints.
"He's just trying to amp them up. That's all," LeBron said. "That's all it is. He knows his team isn't soft. But with them, with their backs against the wall at this point, he knows what he's doing. He's not the executive of the year for no reason."
Granger was unable to practice Wednesday but expects to try to play and said he's on a regimen of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication.
"Very much hoping he'll be available," Vogel said. "He's a gamer. I'm thinking he'll play. But his ankle's pretty bad, so we'll see."
West, meanwhile, insists he's not hurt and Stephenson's status is still unknown.
Game 7 of the series, if necessary, will be in on Saturday in Miami.