CLEVELAND -- After attempting just four free throws in a 110-94 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, Cavaliers star LeBron James said NBA officiating caters more to outside shooters than players who regularly drive to the basket.
"We're at a point now where we protect the shooter more than the driver," James said. "There's no reason I should be going to the line four times in a game when I drive 100 times to the paint and I'm getting hit and slapped and grabbed and whatever and whatnot. We protect the shooter. That's what it's turned into. 'Chicks dig the long ball,' and that's what it's about."
James had 12 direct drives against the Spurs, according to Second Spectrum, and none of his direct drives resulted in a foul. It was the 10th time this season that James' direct drive total exceeded his total free throws attempted by eight or more.
Cavs big man Tristan Thompson spoke up on James' behalf.
"I mean, he attacks the rim a lot, so it's up to the ref. It's on them to make the calls," Thompson said. "I think, with him being so strong and athletic, just because he's bigger and stronger than everyone, doesn't mean it (should not be) a foul. I think he gets fouled more than anyone in this league, and he gets hit, but people kind of take advantage of the fact that he's 280 (pounds) and he's a freight train. But if a guy gets hit, you got to call the foul. But that's just my personal opinion."
James came into the Spurs game averaging 11.3 drives, according to ESPN Stats & Information, but just 6.0 free throw attempts per game -- his lowest average since his rookie season (5.8).
Last season, James averaged the same amount of drives per game but 7.2 free throws per game.
The Cavs were whistled for 24 fouls on Sunday. The Spurs were called for 12, including just three in the second half. Several teams have been called for only two fouls in a half this season -- the Spurs had two fouls in the first half against the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 30 -- but this was the first time this season San Antonio had three fouls or fewer in the second half of a game.
Thompson called the foul disparity "crazy," adding, "I think we're very aggressive."
James was called for a technical foul after missing a driving layup with 6:57 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Cavs trailing 91-79 when he argued with referee Ken Mauer that a foul should have been called on the play.
It was James' fifth technical of the season in 59 games. Last season, James had four technical fouls in 74 regular-season games.
"Some nights you're going to get them, some nights you're not," Thompson said. "But you can't let that dictate emotions and feelings. You got to still keep playing and get better as a team."
During the Cavs' 2016 first-round playoff series with the Pistons, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue compared James to another physical figure in NBA history whom the referees seemed to have a tough time officiating fairly: Shaquille O'Neal.
"He's the Shaq of guards and forwards," Lue said. "He's so strong and so physical, when he goes to the basket, guys are bouncing off of him. Those are still fouls, but he doesn't get that call because he's so big and so strong and so physical."