LeBron James scored only seven points, a playoff career low, as he battled foul trouble throughout Miami's 93-90 loss to Indiana in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday.
The tables were turned one game after Pacers forward Paul George complained that the Heat benefited from "home cooking" by the officials during Game 4, as James played just 24 minutes. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was forced to pull James on multiple occasions because of fouls, although LeBron did play the final 10-plus minutes of the game without fouling out.
"I picked up some early fouls," James said. "It's definitely something I'm not accustomed to, but my teammates kept it going and put us in a position to win. That's all we can ask for."
The four-time MVP's previous playoff career low was eight points (on 3-of-11 shooting) in Game 4 of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Mavericks, a performance that was widely criticized given the magnitude of the game. His seven points mark the fewest that he's tallied since joining the Heat in 2010. James has scored fewer than seven points only three times during his 11-year career, all in his first two seasons.
James' fouls -- assessed by the crew of Ken Mauer, Ed Malloy and Tom Washington -- came as follows and can be seen in the video above:
- Midway through the first quarter, George fell hard to the court as he tried to split Miami's defense on the perimeter, and James was called for the trip.
- With a little under three minutes remaining in the first quarter, George Hill attacked the basket in transition, missing a layup but getting the call on the way up. James laughed in response to the call, as there appeared to be minimal, if any, contact.
- Midway through the second quarter, James was called for an offensive foul as he collided with George while trying to drive left.
- James picked up his fourth foul just 21 seconds into the third quarter as he softly swiped at Roy Hibbert, who completed an and-one putback opportunity.
- His fifth and final foul came with a little under nine minutes to play in the third quarter, as he scrapped with Lance Stephenson for a loose ball after getting stripped on the perimeter.
James sat from the 2:43 mark of the first quarter until the 7:13 mark of the second quarter; from the 6:03 mark of the second quarter until halftime; and from the 8:33 mark of the third quarter through the 10:30 mark of the fourth quarter. Those long stretches on the sidelines defined a night in which James finished with seven points (on 2-of-10 shooting), four assists, two rebounds and three turnovers. James' 24 minutes were a playoff career low and the fewest he's logged since a game against the Suns on Nov. 17, 2010.
George was fined $25,000 for his comments about the officiating after Game 4. James did not take issue with the whistles during his postgame news conference on Wednesday.
"It sucks for me because I'm not able to make plays to help our team win," James said. "I made a couple in the fourth, but 24 minutes is not enough for me to make an imprint on the game like I know I'm accustomed to doing or I know I can do. So you just continue to help the guys from the bench, let them know what you can see when you're in foul trouble, and ways we can try to exploit them. But I'm much better on the floor than I am off of it, for sure."
Spoelstra also passed on making a stink about the referees' treatment of James.
"Regardless of what happens, we still had enough opportunities to come away with a win," he said. "We just couldn't get over the hump."
Chris Bosh led the Heat with 20 points (on 9-of-21 shooting) and 10 rebounds, but he missed a potential game-winning three-pointer on Miami's final possession.
George registered a game-high 37 points (on 15-of-28 shooting), six rebounds, two assists and six steals for the Pacers, who staved off elimination.
The Heat lead the series 3-2. Game 6 is in Miami on Friday. Miami is seeking its fourth straight trip to the Finals.
Video via YouTube user frank den