- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 18, 2006

MIAMI — Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson has relocated his team, moving them from the temptations of South Beach to the relatively sedate environs of Fort Lauderdale.

However, Johnson hasn’t misplaced his dissatisfaction with the NBA for its decision to suspend his top reserve, Jerry Stackhouse, for tonight’s pivotal Game 5 here.

The Mavericks, who have dropped the last two games in the finals and are tied 2-2 with Miami, will be at an extreme disadvantage in today’s game, the final game here before moving back to Dallas.

“What am I supposed to do?” Johnson said yesterday. “Everybody’s so amazed that I disagree with the decision. I mean, what am I supposed to do, go out and have a parade, have a party.”

Stackhouse was suspended Friday after Stu Jackson, the NBA’s vice president of basketball operations, reviewed the tape of Stackhouse knocking Miami’s Shaquille O’Neal off his feet as O’Neal prepared to dunk in the third quarter of the Heat’s 98-74 win in Game 4 on Thursday night.

Stackhouse is the Mavericks’ third-leading scorer in the finals, averaging 13.0 points a game. Without him, Dallas’ bench will be compromised.

Johnson said the call is symptomatic of the imbalance in officiating his team has been a victim of — not just in this series but throughout the playoffs.

Stackhouse is the third Mavericks player to be suspended during the postseason. Point guard Jason Terry was suspended against San Antonio when the Spurs sent a tape to the league office showing Terry punching Spurs guard Michael Finley in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals.

On the first play of Game 4 with the Heat, Johnson said, Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki was hit in the head by a Heat player and the officials completely missed it.

“Their player, Player A, came over and just pounded Dirk,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t crying about a flagrant foul, all right. It was an elbow to Dirk’s head. We weren’t crying about a flagrant foul, because we don’t complain about flagrant fouls.

“But we make the same attempt and my player gets suspended. So now, because I’m a religious man, I’m supposed to come in here and have a prayer meeting. All we want to be able to do is come out and just play the game without any preferential treatment. Just play the game and be consistent. Let the players determine who is going to win — that’s it. That’s all I ever want.”

O’Neal has joked about the foul, saying his daughter has hit him harder than Stackhouse and hinted he was disappointed that Stackhouse won’t be around for today’s game.

“In a situation like this, you never want anything like that to happen,” he said. “You want everybody to be here.”

With Stackhouse out until Game 6 on Tuesday, most of his minutes likely will go to third-year player Marquis Daniels, who is averaging 2.8 points in 10.6 minutes in the playoffs.

However, Daniels did average 10.2 points in 28.4 minutes in the regular season. He started 29 games.

“They have players who are good on their team and can step up and fulfill the role,” said Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who is averaging a series-high 32.2 points.

Nevertheless, Game 5s have proved to be crucial in determining the outcome of the NBA Finals. In the 24 times the series has been tied 2-2, the Game 5 winner has won every time.

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