It felt pretty bad to the Mavericks on Friday.
Stackhouse, Dallas' invaluable scorer off the bench, will be barred from the American Airlines Arena during Sunday's Game 5, the NBA announced Friday after levying a one-game suspension for the play.
"The contact by Jerry Stackhouse was clearly excessive and warrants a suspension," Stu Jackson, the league's vice president for basketball operations, said in a release.
Stackhouse has averaged 13.0 points in the finals, the most of any Maverick reserve. As O'Neal and guard Jason Williams ran a fast break during Thursday's Game 4, Stackhouse ran over and delivered a hard blow across O'Neal's arms, while bumping him hard enough to knock the Miami center out of bounds.
O'Neal laughed off the contact, saying afterward that "My daughters tackle me harder when I come home."
But the league has been cracking down on physical play in the playoffs; in the Western Conference semifinals, Mavs guard Jason Terry was suspended for one game for a punch he threw at San Antonio guard Michael Finley while scrambling for a loose ball.
Stackhouse's absence will likely mean a larger role on Sunday for former University of Utah forward Keith Van Horn, who has played only 13 minutes in the previous two games in Miami. Van Horn has made three of 10 shots in the series, but is 0-for-5 in Miami.
Dallas coach Avery Johnson, speaking before the league's announcement, said he didn't believe that Stackhouse's offense warranted a suspension.
"I would hope that it's a fine or something like that, but I don't think it's a suspension," Johnson said. "If that's a suspension, then . . . they will have to go back and . . . maybe go suspend some other players they forgot."
No more Mr. Nice Guys
It's no coincidence that bad feelings are beginning to grow between the teams, according to Heat coach Pat Riley. It's a natural consequence of high-stakes competition over a prolonged period.
"It just sort of grows," Riley said. "This is the fifth game now and all of the sort of niceties and genuine respect that each side has for one another dissipates with the competition and as we get closer to the result and the outcome. It always happens, it always happens in all sports."
If Miami wins two of the final three games and wins a world championship, its rally from a 13-point deficit with six minutes remaining on Tuesday will go down in history, Riley said.
"You know, our season was hanging in the balance. And wherever it came from and however players summoned it up, that's why we're all here," Riley said. "That is what people get connected to, and they hope that they will see in a major event, you know, whether it's a heavyweight championship fight or a World Series or a Super Bowl or a Stanley Cup. There's always that opportunity that somebody can do something that nobody is going to expect.
"Yes, it could be the defining moment. We'll only know in eight days."