Cavaliers forward LeBron James took issue with trash talk directed toward him by Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah.
Shortly after Chicago took a 2–1 series lead over Cleveland thanks to a Derrick Rose game-winner, James accused Noah of crossing the line by resorting to "disrespectful" trash talk during a third-quarter exchange which eventually led to technical fouls for both parties.
According to James, the two longtime rivals began exchanging words after Noah fouled him.
"I love his emotions as a competitor," James said afterward. "I think the words he used to me [went] a little too far. I'm a father with three kids, you know, it got very disrespectful. I'm okay with competing against Jo. I love the competitive nature in him. We should leave it there. The disrespectful words were uncalled for."
On the next play, James beat Chicago's defense for a baseline dunk, finishing his slam over the top of Noah. While celebrating, James gave Noah an earful in return, drawing a taunting technical foul. Shortly thereafter, Noah was also given a technical foul for replying to James with more trash talk.
"The best way to retaliate is by making a play," James continued. "That's the only way I know how to resolve things: make a play and try to help our team. ... If it was the 1990s or 1980s, I would be able to say what I had to say and move on. But I got the T. I earned it."
It's unclear precisely what the two players said to each other, but video replays appeared to indicate that profanity was involved.
Noah told Cleveland.com after the game that he has "mad respect" for James and that they are just "two players trying to win a game."
Earlier Friday, Noah was fined $25,000 for pushing a fan as he walked off the court during halftime of Game 2 in Cleveland. Noah's mouth has gotten him in trouble on numerous occasions: he was fined $15,000 for a November 2014 incident with the Wizards, $15,000 for criticizing the officials during a Feb. 2014 game against the Kings, and $50,000 for using a homophobic slur towards a fan during a May 2011 game against the Heat.
James was hounded by Jimmy Butler throughout Cleveland's 99-96 loss to Chicago on Friday. He finished with a team-high 27 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds but shot just 8 for 25 and committed seven turnovers in the loss. Afterward, he said that reporters should, "Put [the loss] on me."
Noah finished with four points on 1–for–8 shooting, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. He was benched for much of the fourth quarter in favor of smaller lineups featuring reserve forwards Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic.