AK-47: LeBron “escalated the conflict”
On Friday, the Brooklyn Nets pulled a big upset in defeating the two-time defending champion Miami Heat 104-95 in double OT. Among the other surprises of the game was Heat star LeBron James having his night ended early by foul troubles. He had a few choice words for Nets forward Andre Kirilenko, who was tasked with guarding the superstar.
“I thought Kirilenko flopped a few times to be honest about it, and he got the call,” James said after the game. “The last one that fouled me out could’ve been a charge for sure. He put his hands on me as I drove and that got him off balance and he got the call. But he definitely flopped a few times.”
James does not foul out very often, so this one was certainly surprising to a lot of people. Kirilenko had no problem firing back and defending himself, according to ESPN New York.
“It’s all right,” Kirilenko told The Record (N.J.). “I don’t really care, I don’t take it personally. … He’s a strong guy, he tries to overpower his defenders. And every time he’s trying to [get] open, he has to use his force. I didn’t flop. That’s what I can tell you.”
Kirilenko told the Record that the Nets had a specific gameplan in mind for trying to contain James, and that was to “be annoying” by crowding him. Despite James scoring 36 points before fouling out, it was very noticeable what the game plan was for the Nets. One instance in particular of the Nets crowding him and getting in his face came from forward Mirza Teletovic, who was whistled for a flagrant 1 on a LeBron James drive to the basket. There was some jawing back and forth but no physical response. Teletovic smiled at James while they were being separated, drawing speculation as to how purposeful the foul was. Kirilenko believes James made too big a deal out of the foul.
“I think he escalated the conflict rather than just let it go,” Kirilenko told the paper. “I was a little bit surprised because it wasn’t a situation to get into a fight, Mirza just tried to slow him down and understand that something is going wrong so he let him go right away. [LeBron] just overreacted a little bit.”
It goes without saying that LeBron James is a superstar in the NBA, and with that come certain unspoken rules about his status during the game. It isn’t surprising to see a down-the-middle call go his way, and it’s very uncommon for him to foul, let alone foul enough to have to leave the game. James may have been out of his comfort zone with the physicality that Kirilenko, Teletovic, and others showed him and with the amount of fouls he was getting stuck with. You can be sure, though, that the next time these two teams meet it will be a physical matchup and the Heat will be looking to avenge this loss.
What do you think?
Did LeBron James escalate the conflict against the Nets?
Was he simply out of his comfort zone being crowded and knocked around?
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