Indiana coach Frank Vogel wasted no time on Thursday taking shots at the Miami Heat, claiming the Heat are "the biggest flopping team in the NBA."
Led by Heat forwards Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier, the Heat drew the fourth-most charges in the NBA during the regular season, according to Hoopdata.com. Vogel took issue with the Heat's exaggeration of contact instead of choosing to make plays above the rim.
"Every drive to the basket, they have guys not making a play on the ball, but sliding in front of drivers," Vogel said. "Oftentimes, they're falling down even before contact is even being made. It'll be interesting to see how the series is officiated."
Miami heard Vogel's message loud and clear. Speaking a day later at Friday's practice at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Heat responded. But mostly with a shrug.
"We could care less," Spoelstra said of Vogel's assertions. "We're a physical team and we're focused on what's ahead of us. Part of our defensive philosophy is putting our bodies in front of offensive players. That's what we've been doing for years and years."
"We don't get caught up in that, honestly," James said. "We've been thrown under the bus. So we've heard everything. There's nothing that you can say to our team that can get us extra motivated. We don't really care.''
Wade said he doesn't care about the off-court banter.
"We really don't get into going back and forth too much with what people say," Wade said. "Everyone has their own opinion and they can use it whenever they want to, and that's fine."
Heat forward Chris Bosh, however, is using the comments as fuel for Sunday's game.
"It's fantastic motivation," Bosh said. "We know it's going to come down to heart and determination. Everything else is just motivation."
On Friday afternoon, speaking to 790 the Ticket, a South Florida radio station, Vogel didn't back down from what he called "harmless" comments while reiterating his frustrations with the Heat's defensive approach.
"Flopping is a problem in this league," Vogel said. "Miami certainly has some guys who do a lot of it. I just don't think it's good for the game in general.
"We've got the greatest athletes in the world. There's nothing more exciting for our fans to see an athletic play made above the rim. When a defender's intent is to fall down and hope for a whistle, I don't think that's good for the game. That was only my point."
As one of the Heat's top charge-takers, Haslem said he won't change his mentality because of Vogel's comments.
"I'm speechless," Haslem said. "I don't know. He's entitled to his opinion. A charge is a charge. I take mine. It's up the referee to make the call. I don't know what it is. If that's the way (Vogel) feels, that's the way he feels. It's not going to change the way we play the game, how we step in there or how we take hits. The referees are going to do their job."
The Heat defeated the New York Knicks on Wednesday night in the series clincher. Wade and James are known to be the top foul-drawing players in the game. In the first-round series against New York, the Heat won the free-throw battle, generating 151 free-throw attempts. New York had 109.
Spoelstra foresees a physical series against the Pacers.
"This next series, I'm sure, will feel like it's played in a cage rather than on a basketball court," Spoelstra said after Miami's win over the Knicks. "It'll be that physical."
The Pacers enter Sunday's game as one of the league's hottest teams, beating the Orlando Magic in five games and winning 14 of their last 17 games dating to early April.
Sunday's matchup will be the first game between the two teams since March 23, when Indiana won by 15 points on its home floor. The Heat won the three previous matchups by a total of 52 points.
James disagreed with a reporter on Wednesday who suggested the Pacers have had the upper hand against the Heat this season.
"I don't think they've given us too many problems, personally," James said. "We played some great ball against them. I think we gave them more problems than they gave us."