LeBron James and Draymond Green nearly scuffled in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday, getting in each other's faces after some physical play. Green has now earned a flagrant foul and a suspension for Game 5.
The sequence started when James attempted -- and failed -- to step over Green's floorbound body:
You might not see it on that first angle, but as Green was standing, he appeared to fire a backhand swat at James' groin. Similar low blows have become somewhat of a theme for Green during these playoffs.
Green didn't get suspended for his kick at Steven Adams' genitals because it was ruled incidental, but from the reverse angle, it really looks like Green thought about his swat. There's no other explanation for his motion up towards James' groin. If the NBA were to review this play and assess Green with a flagrant foul, he'd earn an automatic suspension for Game 5 due to the amount of technical and flagrant fouls he's received thus far in the playoffs.
ESPN reports that Green's word choice also set LeBron off.
According to a source familiar with the spat between LeBron James and Draymond Green, the trigger word was DG calling James a "b*tch"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) June 11, 2016
During the game, the step-over, maybe ball-tap, flail, and subsequent face-to-face jawing didn't earn calls from the referees, but Green and James were called for a double foul when they got tied up fighting for a rebound. Neither received a technical foul after refs broke up the tension.
The two had been matched up with each other a lot during Game 4 -- Cleveland's decision to match James up with Green defensively was a big difference maker in Game 3 -- and often the play was pretty rough. Part of the blame for the high emotions goes to the referees, who let a lot of physical play go all night.
James shouldn't have tried to step over Green, and Green shouldn't have tried to keep the altercation going. Whether you think the balltap was intentional or not, Green certainly tried to continue provoking James. That isn't particularly surprising from Green, whose jawing and grimey play have seen him accumulate more real estate inside his opponents' heads than any other NBA player. But it's strange to see the normally level-headed James snap. His quick rise in temper lends some credence to the idea that he felt Green had issued a dirty shot at his groin.