Charlotte is led by earnest Al Jefferson, who has never shown anything but respect for an opponent. And many of the other key parts, including Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, haven't been pros long enough to earn any sort of reputation.
The good feeling, however, ended with 50 seconds left in Game 2, after LeBron James darted left around a Chris Bosh screen, got past Kidd-Gilchrist, and took a right elbow from Josh McRoberts. James lost the ball, crumpled to the floor, and held his throat for a few seconds. The officials ruled it a common, not flagrant, foul, and James made one of two free throws.
This came after the Heat complained several times during the season about what they believe are "non-basketball plays" -- opponents taking liberties against James when he's in the air. This became a real pressure point in Indiana in late March, when James got hammered twice, and the officials only called personal fouls, and then got called for a flagrant when elbowing Roy Hibbert before coming down.
After taking the shot from McRoberts, James said his only objective was "trying to catch my breath" after getting "elbowed in the throat," so he could make his free throws.
"I had no idea what the call was," James said. "I knew it was a foul, but I didn't know if it was going to be a flagrant or not. I haven't seen it again. I don't need to see it again. The most important thing is we win the game."
His coach, Erik Spoelstra, said that he received an explanation from the officials for forgoing the flagrant, but "nothing that seemed rational to me."
McRoberts denied that there was any intent.
"Just kind of got caught up in the air there," he said. "Came for the rotation. I'd have to see it. But I think, for me, in real time, he was coming pretty fast down the lane, he's a big, strong guy. I was just trying to stop him from, first, getting the shot up. But then I think I just kind of got caught up in the air. It probably looked worse than what it was."
Should it have been a flagrant?
"They didn't call it," McRoberts said. "So, no. It wasn't intentional, so, no."
The league can review it, and may decide differently.
Either way, if Charlotte makes it back to Miami for Game 5, Heat fans are likely to relate their own interpretation.
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