With the outcome of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals in the balance, LeBron James had an unusual vantage point: The Miami Heat bench.
For just the fifth time in his career (and only second time in the postseason), James had fouled out of a game. Whistled for his sixth personal foul with 56 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, James had just as much control over the final frenetic seconds as Rashard Lewis. Neither helped. Trailing 96-92 when the reigning NBA MVP headed for the bench in disbelief after an offensive foul call, the Heat would not score again en route to a 99-92 defeat.
"We had several guys in foul trouble," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game, via USA Today Sports. "Last time LeBron fouled out of a playoff game was last year in Boston. So it doesn't happen very often."
After the game, James made it clear that he didn't think it should've happened in Game 4, questioning several of the calls against him. In the final minute, James attempted to set a screen for Dwyane Wade and drew a whistle for his contact with Pacers guard Lance Stephenson.
“I didn’t believe it was an offensive foul,” James said of his sixth foul, via Sports Illustrated. “I was going to set a screen, and I felt like I was stationary. And D‑Wade rejected the pick‑and‑roll. Lance actually ran into me.”
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Although replays revealed that James did step on Stephenson's foot as he arrived to set his screen, TNT analyst Steve Kerr believed it was a harsh decision by referee Derrick Stafford.
"That's a tough call, especially because Wade denied the screen and went the other way," Kerr said during the broadcast.
Kerr's take was shared by many on Twitter, including Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, who tweeted (and then quickly deleted) a comment about the whistle.
RT @kdtrey5 Bad call..
— Royce Young (@dailythunder) May 29, 2013
Didn't know people got so mad over deleted tweets, sheesh. calm down..this is NOT real life on here..it's gonna be aight
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) May 29, 2013
Despite losing Game 4 in Indianapolis, James insisted everything was going to alright for the Heat, who regained home-court advantage with a Game 3 win.
"We were able to come here and regain home court," James said the game, via The Associated Press. "We feel good about that. It's a three-game series with two on our home floor, if needed."