MIAMI What Shaquille O Neal joked was nothing more than a love tap from his kids will keep Jerry Stackhouse from playing Game 5 of the NBA finals.
The league announced today that Stackhouse s hard foul on O Neal in the third quarter of Game 4 was worthy of a one-game suspension.
At the time, Stackhouse was called for a flagrant foul. But after reviewing the play and discussing the details with both players, league vice president Stu Jackson opted to upgrade the punishment to a suspension.
The contact by Jerry Stackhouse was clearly excessive and warrants a suspension, Jackson said in a release.
The series is tied 2-2, with the Heat having won the last two games. Game 5 is Sunday night in Miami.
Miami was leading 68-51 in the third quarter of Game 4 when Jason Williams stole the ball from Dallas Josh Howard and drove to the other end of the court. A few steps beyond the foul line, Williams dished to O Neal for a likely crowd-thrilling dunk but Stackhouse swooped in from the side, taking him down with a head-high shove.
It was a hard foul, Stackhouse said after the game. When Shaq is going to the basket, we want to try to make him go to the free throw line and earn it.
O Neal did, making both foul shots. Given the ball back, the Heat got two more points to stretch their lead to 20 for the first time.
My daughters tackle me harder when I come home, O Neal said of Stackhouse s play. I m one of the last players of the old school, and you know, you just have to take a hard foul like that and keep on moving. It actually felt pretty good to get hit like that. Thank you, Jerry. Appreciate it.
The Heat may really appreciate Stackhouse s absence from Game 5.
Stackhouse is Dallas top reserve. He s averaging 13.8 points this postseason and 13.0 in the finals. He had 16 in Game 2, including 10 straight over the final 79 seconds of the first half that propelled the Mavericks to a victory.
Earlier today, Dallas coach Avery Johnson said he didn t think such a penalty was warranted, noting that O Neal wasn t penalized for hitting Stackhouse hard enough in Game 1 that he opened a gash that required three stitches to close.
This marks the third time this postseason the Mavericks have had a player suspended.
Jason Terry was lost for Game 6 of the second round against San Antonio for punching Spurs guard Michael Finley below the belt and center D.J. Mbenga just completed a five-game suspension for running into the stands to aid Johnson s wife during the conference finals. Mbenga is eligible to return for Game 5.
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