Mavs fighting mad for Game 5


MIAMI -- Dallas coach Avery Johnson is mad.

Jerry Stackhouse is suspended for Game 5.

And the Dallas Mavericks are holed up in their Fort Lauderdale hotel after Johnson moved them out of Miami, citing distractions.

All that prompts the question: Are the Mavericks, once in control of the Finals, in trouble with Game 5 tonight at American- Airlines Arena? "We feel good," Dallas guard Adrian Griffin said yesterday. "Things like this happen."

But losing Stackhouse, their top reserve, is the biggest blow to the Mavericks. The league suspended Stackhouse for Game 5 after his flagrant foul against Shaquille O'Neal on a fast-break play in Game 4 on Thursday.

Now the Heat, once down 2-0 in the series and needing a late comeback to win Game 3, can go back to Dallas with a 3-2 lead. Coach Pat Riley and his players said there would be no relaxing because of the suspension.

"I don't think our team is like that," Heat guard Gary Payton said. "I think we are just going to come out and play. They have got a guy, Marquis Daniels, who can play the same type basketball [as Stackhouse]; he just hasn't gotten an opportunity to play."

The suspension prompted an angry rant from Johnson on a Dallas radio station Friday, and he was still steaming during an interview session with reporters yesterday at the arena.

Johnson said there is a double standard for star players like O'Neal and that some of O'Neal's physical play in the series has gone unpunished.

Johnson seemed fed up with reporters who expressed surprise at his strong comments and said people take his usual unwillingness to speak out as a sign of "weakness."

"What am I supposed to do, go out and have a parade and a party?" Johnson said.

Riley said the Mavericks should have no complaints because of the precedents set by other suspensions in the playoffs. That includes James Posey's one-game suspension during the Chicago Bulls series for putting a shoulder to Kirk Hinrich.

O'Neal shrugged off the Stackhouse play after the game and did the same yesterday, even joking that Stackhouse saved him a trip to his chiropractor.

In the series, O'Neal has delivered elbows to Stackhouse and Dirk Nowitzki as well as a hip check to guard Devin Harris. Now the Mavericks sound ready to respond in kind.

Veteran Darrell Armstrong said the Mavericks should be more physical.

"I think [Stackhouse] really made a statement when he fouled [O'Neal]," Armstrong said. "It was a business foul: 'I am not going to let you get this layup.' A lot of guys would have let [O'Neal] go ahead and dunk it. To me it was a good, hard foul."

Michael Cunningham writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.


Dallas vs. Miami

Best of seven

Series tied 2-2

Game 1: Dallas 90, Miami 80 Game 2: Dallas 99, Miami 85 Game 3: Miami 98, Dallas 96 Game 4: Miami 98, Dallas 74 Today: Dallas at Miami, 9 p.m. Tuesday: Miami at Dallas, 9 p.m. *Thursday: Miami at Dallas, 9 p.m. *-If necessary

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