With Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals hanging in the balance, LeBron James was whistled for his sixth foul and ejected. It was a borderline call, as the refs determined James set a moving pick on Lance Stephenson.
To no one’s surprise, LeBron strongly disagreed, and said if anything, it was Stephenson who committed a foul.
Per the AP:
“I didn’t believe it was an offensive foul,” he said about the last call. “I was going to set a screen, and I felt like I was stationary. … Lance (Stephenson, the Pacers’ guard) actually ran into me.” The call was made after James attempted to set a screen for teammate Dwyane Wayne at the top of the key then stuck out his left leg to make it tougher for Stephenson to get around him. For good measure, he also stepped on Stephenson’s foot. While you rarely see an illegal screen called late in a tight game, when Stephenson stumbled to regain his balance the officials were forced to sort out the damage.
James actually had a beef with three more of the six fouls he accumulated, and it wasn’t without some merit. One came with two seconds left in the third quarter, after he collected a loose ball close to Indiana’s basket, then swung both arms to protect it from David West and grazed the Pacers big man with his elbow. The contact in that instance seemed minimal. But when big bodies get bounced around, James knows it’s the refs who have to sort it out. “It was a couple of calls I didn’t feel were fouls, personal fouls on me,” he said, then tried to temper his complaints. “That’s how the game goes sometimes.”
This marked the second time in LeBron James’ career that he has fouled out of a Playoff game.
Regardless of where you stand on the LeBron ejection, Game 5 back in Miami promises to be officiated differently.
By gutting out a tough 99-92 win, the Indiana Pacers tied the series at two games apiece, but the story of Game 4 was the questionable work done by Joey Crawford and the rest of the officiating crew. That, you can be sure, is not what the NBA — or anyone else — had in mind.