James appeared to be upset about defensive coverages on Paul George, who scored 16 consecutive Pacers points at one point in overtime and finished with 43 points. James, who had 41 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists, was George's primary defender, but the Pacers were running plays that forced Thompson to switch to George.
Moments after Cavs forward Kevin Love hit a key 3-pointer for a four-point lead with 26 seconds left, euphoria on the Cavs' bench was zapped when James and Thompson went back and forth. James yelled at Thompson as they were walking to the bench and waved off coach Tyronn Lue when he attempted to calm James' down. Thompson snapped back at James, exchanging words in the huddle throughout a timeout.
Immediately after the game, James expressed remorse.
"I have to do a better job of not showing up my teammates out on the floor. I had the right intentions in my mind, but I had the wrong intentions come out of my mouth," James told Fox Sports Ohio on the court after the game ended. "I take full responsibility for that as the leader of the team. So I got to be a lot better at that and be able to keep that in-house in the locker room and when we're watching film."
In the locker room, James expanded on his thoughts:
"I was a little bit too demonstrative at that point in the game," James said. "He worked hard for our team, he's a big-time player ... but the way it came out was -- it didn't look good on TV."
After James apologized to Thompson in the locker room, Cavs general manager David Griffin spoke to Thompson briefly before Thompson addressed reporters.
"We're family. Little miscommunication in the huddle. Move forward. Move forward. We're family. Got each other's back always. Move forward," Thompson said. "Not going to get into (the reasons), just miscommunication, like I said. Move forward. It is what it is. Got the win."
Thompson and James are represented by the same agent and have a close relationship off the court, frequently working out together and spending time together socially.
It was a key victory for the Cavs, who stayed tie with the Boston Celtics in the loss column for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs have the tiebreaker now but the teams play Wednesday in Boston, and the winner will control the tiebreaker.
Despite the win, the Cavs' locker room was notably dour after the game. Kyrie Irving, who had 23 points, left without speaking to the media for the second time in a week.