INDIANAPOLIS -- Miami's Dwyane Wade was assessed a flagrant foul, penalty-1 on Sunday but was not suspended for his forearm to the head of Indiana's Lance Stephenson in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday night.
After reviewing several foul situations from Game 2, including the Wade play and David West's elbow to Mario Chalmers' shoulder, league officials decided that a flagrant 1 for Wade -- the less severe variety -- was the only upgrade or downgrade warranted.
During the fourth quarter of the Pacers' 97-93 victory that evened the series at one game apiece, Wade leaped and made contact with the side of Stephenson's head while running up the floor in transition while Indiana had the ball.
"There was nothing malicious about it," Wade said before Game 3 on Sunday night. "If you're not there in the moment, it looks a little different."
It was an odd play, as it wasn't clear what Wade or Stephenson were doing during that sequence away from the ball. Stephenson was standing near midcourt, appearing to attempt to get in Wade's way without much other purpose. Wade chose to leap and push off Stephenson to get down the floor instead of simply running around him.
"They were kind of on a break and he cut in front of me and I jumped around him and continued to keep going to try to chase Paul George down," Wade said. "That's it."
At shootaround on Sunday, the Pacers' Paul George called Wade's contact with Stephenson "uncalled for."
"I wasn't worried because it wasn't intentional," Wade said. "The NBA did a great job of looking at it and they gave it what they felt it deserved. Obviously, it wasn't a play that affected the game and it wasn't intentional at all. All I was doing was trying to get out of the way of him coming to try to set a screen on me at halfcourt while I was trying to chase Paul George down and I jumped around him.
"It's an athletic game," Wade said. "It was an athletic move. Unfortunately my arms went back but you see it wasn't anything there and I have no history of that kind of stuff."
Though video replays did not show Wade winding up or using force to hit Stephenson, the Heat star opened himself up to the possibility of a suspension by virtue of making contact with an opponent's head. The NBA has adopted a new concussion policy and has become more vigilant about protecting players from head injuries.
Though he said he wasn't worried about Wade getting suspended, LeBron James said he agrees with the NBA taking a closer look at contact to players' heads.
"That should be a No. 1 red flag, guys getting hit in the head," James said. "That's in every sport. That's in our sport and football and baseball and hockey and so on. So I think we all should be protected with that. I think we all know that's what replay's for, to be able to look at certain plays that may be a little excessive and some plays that were basketball plays. I'm not the one that's sitting behind the camera or the guy that's making those calls. I just go out and play the game and whatever comes with the game, I'm ready for."
The Knicks' J.R. Smith was suspended one game for trying to clear the Celtics' Jason Terry out of the way by winding up and connecting his elbow with Terry's chin on a sweep move during their first-round series. But replays of that incident showed Smith tensing up, rearing back and using force to connect with Terry. As weird as the Wade play was, those aspects were lacking.
"I don't think anybody, myself included, wants anybody on either team suspended from this series," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "I think everybody wants to see both teams at full strength slug it out."