LeBron James famously avoids having fouls called on him like Europeans avoided dead rats in the Dark Ages. For his career, James averages 40 minutes per game. He averages just two fouls a game. It's a ridiculously low figure some attribute to excessive respect for the referees and others use to show LeBron's unique defensive prowess. (For the record, Michael Jordan averaged 2.6 fouls per game during an age when physicality was definitely tolerated more.)
But that's all changed in the Miami Heat's NBA Finals series against the Dallas Mavericks. In Miami's Game 4 loss, LeBron picked up four fouls. It was the third time LeBron finished with four or more fouls in the series. In 79 regular season games, he hit the four-foul mark just eight times.
Now James isn't exactly getting into foul trouble; his fourth and final foul in Game 4 was with 6.7 seconds left and the Heat trailed and needed the ball back. But those situations happen in season, too, and it's a marvel a guy who averaged two fouls a game in the regular season is averaging a shade under four -- he had 15 through four games -- in the Finals. Either the referees are giving James far less benefit of the doubt, or the Mavericks are consciously attacking James ... which seems unlikely, given how few points James has given up defensively.
It'll be interesting to watch LeBron's foul totals as we move forward, and also to see whether the Heat begin to make a stink about it.
For more on James' lackluster Game 4, visit Peninsula Is Mightier.