PHOENIX (AP) LeBron James and David Blatt have downplayed an incident in which the four-time MVP shoved his coach during Cleveland's loss to the Phoenix Suns.
In the first half of Tuesday night's game, Blatt was vehemently arguing a call when James pushed him back to the bench.
The incident occurred after James was called for an offensive foul.
''I was talking to Eric Lewis, one of the other refs,'' James said after the game. ''And coach Blatt was getting a little fired up about it too. So I just got him up out of the way so he wouldn't get a `T.' So, just protecting my coach.''
Blatt had the same explanation.
''He was trying to protect me from a technical foul,'' Blatt said.
The episode was magnified by the team's recent problems. The Cavaliers have lost six in a row and nine of their last 10. They were 1-7 in James' absence and have fallen below .500 at 19-20.
Tuesday night's loss came in James' return to the team after a two-week absence to rest his sore left knee and back.
He scored 33 points but the Cavaliers lost 107-100. One of the big players acquired to play alongside James this season, Kevin Love, sat out a good portion of the third quarter and all of the fourth while Cleveland rallied from a 19-point deficit.
Cleveland resumes its western road trip Thursday night against the Lakers in Los Angeles.