TORONTO -- LeBron James says spinning the ball in his hands before drilling a 3-pointer over Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka in the Cleveland Cavaliers' Game 2 win Wednesday was merely a basketball play, not a sign of disrespect.
"It's bait," James told ESPN at Cavs shootaround ahead of Friday's Game 3. "If [Ibaka] would have reached in, I would have put it on the floor.
"It was a mental thing. Everything I do is mental."
James laughed when a reporter compared the play to a memorable sequence when Michael Jordan palmed a basketball and waved it over Brent Price's head like a carrot on a stick. But James insisted he was only doing it to set up his offensive attack.
"I was just basically in my zone, in my comfort zone, and after I spun the ball and I jabbed him, I seen what I needed to see from the defender to be able to get that shot off," James told reporters. "If I didn't see it, I would have drove it, and if I didn't have the drive, I would have gave it up and let one of my teammates attack."
James told ESPN the amount of attention the play has received comes with the territory for a player of his stature, but he scoffed at any added significance attached to the moment.
"What if I missed the shot? What if he stole the ball? We wouldn't be talking about it," James said.
The Raptors were still talking about the play Friday morning, as well as other sideshow moments in the series: a Cleveland-based reporter suggesting to Toronto coach Dwane Casey that his team was "dominated" in Game 1, and James pretending to take a sip from a beer bottle in the opener. The Raptors indicated those were motivating factors as the series shifts to the Air Canada Centre.
"If people want to use the word 'We got dominated,' that should get your hair up on your neck a little bit, get you upset a little bit, getting accused of getting dominated," Casey said. "I hope so, in a smart way. I don't want to get anybody thrown out or suspended or anything like that, but yeah, you should be teed off or upset when somebody's using the word dominated, that you got dominated.
"The word 'dominant,' that play [where James spun the ball], coming off and having a beer on the sideline, all those things should get you upset to make it a physical contest."
Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry didn't have a problem with James spinning the ball. He had a problem with the Raptors' defense being so ineffective that James would feel empowered to attempt such a move.
"I was pretty upset, [but] not that he did it," Lowry said. "He should spin the ball. He's comfortable. We can't let him be comfortable. We have to make him uncomfortable. He's in a situation right now where he's playing very comfortably and the things he's doing is comfortable. If I was comfortable, I would do the same thing."