Late in the third quarter, Harden took exception to a harassing double-team thrown on him by James and Cleveland teammate James Jones (it was indeed a very James-heavy sequence). Harden eventually fell to the the floor, and as he did so, he saw fit to give LeBron a parting shot.
That got both teams into a bit of a scuffle, which results in technical fouls being called on Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson and Houston’s Corey Brewer. For his part, Harden was assessed a flagrant-1 penalty; he was allowed to remain in the game, but he may face further punishment for his action.
There was an even more bizarre tie-up between the two late in the game, one that didn’t result in a foul. In fact, it didn’t result in anything but a shot-clock violation on Houston, which seemed odd, given the contact:
That arm-lock between the pair of MVP candidates occurred with less than a minute to play and the Rockets up by just one point. The shot-clock violation gave the ball to Cleveland, and James was able to get fouled on a shot attempt, putting him at the line for two free-throw attempts with four seconds left.
After Harden’s flagrant foul, James had missed both of his free-throw attempts. Surely he’d at least hit one of these and send the game into a second overtime right?
Wrong. LeBron tossed up a pair of LeBricks, and shortly after that, his Cavs walked off the court with a very frustrating loss. James notched 37 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three steals, but he also went just 15 for 35 from the field, plus 3 for 11 on free throws, and ultimately that made the difference.
After the game, James posted a very curious tweet:
It wasn’t clear to many what “Bron” meant by “trick it off.” Urban Dictionary provides a rather vulgar definition, but that doesn’t seem to apply in this case, so it’s likely James was using the phrase in a different way, perhaps specific to his Akron roots.
Update, 11:37 p.m.: Later on Sunday evening, James posted a photo to Instagram, along with this caption:
“Looking in the mirror tonight after a tough lost of my part like You’re your biggest challenge, competition, drive, obstacle, motivation, etc so it’s nothing u haven’t seen before! Back in the lab tomorrow to continue the drive to striving to be the Greatest I’ve ever seen! #StriveForGreatness”