INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The officiating in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 115-84 win over the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals seemed to go in the Cavs' favor. Toronto was called for more fouls -- 25 to 20 -- and the Raptors' All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan attempted zero free throws for the first time as teammates.
Cleveland's LeBron James, however, was left wondering what it would take for a referee to whistle a flagrant foul on an opponent for contact above his shoulders.
"I have no idea what it is," James said after practice Tuesday. "I know what it is when it happens to someone else, but I don't know when it involves me. I have no idea what a common foul and flagrant foul is."
There were at least three plays in question in Game 1 that James could have been referring to.
In the first half, James caught a Bismack Biyombo elbow to the back of the head while fighting for a rebound.
In the second half, DeMarre Carroll wrapped up James around the shoulder area while stopping him from scoring on a fast break. A common foul was called.
Later in the third quarter, James took another hit from Biyombo to the face, but it was James who was whistled for an offensive foul because the referees determined he made contact with DeRozan's face before Biyombo hit him.
Biyombo was also involved in a play in which he fouled an airborne Tristan Thompson while the Cavs forward was going up for a layup, causing Thompson to fall to the floor. It was determined to be a common foul against Biyombo.
"I thought Tristan's throwdown last night was a little excessive, but he went up there and made two free throws and that's all that matters," James said. "I've pretty much chalked it up to common fouls [being called] with me [getting hit]."
This is not a new story for the Cavs. The team also took issue with the blows being administered by the Detroit Pistons in the first round, causing coach Tyronn Lue to say James is officiated the way Shaquille O'Neal used to be: inconsistently and unfairly.
Lue theorized that James might not get as many calls because of the way he remains unfazed after contact.
"We talk about our guys playing aggressive, being physical, playing the right way, continue to attack," Lue said. "But we don't want to flop and flail all around. Nowadays to get a flagrant foul, you've got to fall down and grab your head and roll on the ground. LeBron being so strong, guys bounce off him. He's not going to hit the ground as hard as other guys do.
"A lot of times it's still a flagrant foul. If someone else gets hit, they fall on the ground, grabbing their head, taking 30, 40 seconds to get up. That just automatically triggers the referees to go to the scorer's table and review it and come up with a flagrant foul. So I don't know."
Thompson was asked whether he is ever tempted to sell the contact he absorbs to get calls to go his way.
"I just keep playing," Thompson said. "Foul, no foul, whatever players do to draw fouls or help their team out, so be it. I'm with it. If it's in our favor, I love it. I just got to stay out of foul trouble."