The Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-93 in what was basically a grudge match Wednesday night. For the most part.
Just one night after J.R. Smith let Leandro Barbosa and his own frustration get the best of him, and barely an hour after Russell Westbrook’s flagrant foul on LeBron James, we had what looked like a brawl in the making when Serge Ibaka essentially sat on Dwyane Wade’s neck.
But this time, there was no eventual ejection or one superstar avoiding the attempt another to help him off the ground, nor was there even a flagrant foul called.
What was there?
A display of sportsmanship from both parties involved.
The personal foul in question wasn’t pretty. Wade’s neck was in the line of fire; he couldn’t even turn it into a free-throw opportunity because he was forced to use his hands and the ball to shield himself.
However, the foul in question was also clearly unintentional in its severity. Ibaka knew it, the referees it knew and the guy who nearly got pummeled, Wade, knew it.
In a game with this kind of implications, this kind of magnitude and this kind of physicality, it’s slightly disconcerting to ponder how things could have gone.
Ibaka’s uncomfortable acrobatics could have easily been misconstrued as a malicious attempt to invoke pain on the opposing team. Had he shown any kind of amusement or satisfaction with himself, or had Wade taken any personal offense to what had just occurred, a bench-clearing massacre could have ensued.
But it didn’t.
There were no ill-fated words exchanged, no glares directed toward either player, just a pat on Ibaka’s back from Wade, a couple of smirks and it was finished. Hell, Wade even helped prevent Ibaka from falling to the floor.
And by responding as both Wade and Ibaka did, they ensured there would be no more flagrants in this contest and that there was nothing negative to be magnified or exaggerated when the final buzzer sounded.
That’s a little thing called sportsmanship, which has become somewhat of a lost art in the NBA.
As LeBron James said at halftime with regards to Westbrook’s questionable hacking of him, “that is what happens in playoff basketball.”
While that’s more than true, it’s also nice know that there is room in postseason-caliber basketball for the classy reactions witnessed from Wade and Ibaka.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His basketball musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.