(Reuters) – Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue has cried ‘foul’ over the lack of calls made against the Golden State Warriors for their physical defense against LeBron James in the NBA Finals.
James, the powerful four-time National Basketball Association MVP, took only four free throws in Friday’s hard-fought Game Four loss to the Warriors in Cleveland that put Golden State within one win of a successful title defense.
“He never gets calls,” Lue said about James, who has tested the Warriors’ inside defense time and again on single-minded drives to the hoop.
“I mean, he attacks. Outside of Russell Westbrook, he’s one of the guys that attacks the paint every single play. And he doesn’t get a fair whistle all the time because of his strength and because of his power and guys bounce off of him.
“But those are still fouls, and we weren’t able to get them.”
James played 46 minutes, hauled down 13 rebounds and scored 25 points that included a meager 2-of-4 from the charity stripe.
The Cavs, who led by eight points during the third quarter, wore down and were buried under a flood of three-pointers by Golden State duo Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in falling 108-97.
That gave the Warriors, who beat the Cavs in six games in last year’s Finals, a 3-1 series lead and presented Cleveland with a daunting challenge as none of the previous 32 teams that have trailed by that margin have ever gone on to win the title.
Game Four was not the only game that James found it hard to get calls from the officials.
In the four Finals games, James has gone to the foul line just 17 times in all despite continually driving to the basket and the versatile forward, who is appearing in his sixth successive NBA Finals, sounded frustrated.
“It’s been like that all year for the most part,” James said after Friday’s loss.
“I’m not quite sure what I can do personally to get to the free throw line, but I’ve got to continue to be aggressive for our team.
“I’m getting hit, but the refs are not seeing it that way, on my drives. You know, it’s tough playing 46 minutes and only going to the line four times, as much as I attack the rim. So it’s just a tough situation for our team.”
The rough treatment, however, has not robbed James of his sense of humor.
Prodded by reporters to go further in assessing the officiating, James, mindful of league rules prohibiting criticism of officials, said: “I’m going to save my $25K, OK?”
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Andrew Both)