Draymond Green attributed his incident with LeBron James in game four of the NBA Finals to his refusal to back down from the four-time MVP.
Green helped the Golden State Warriors take a 3-1 lead in the championship series on Friday, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-97 to leave the defending champions one win away from back-to-back titles.
But the Warriors forward attracted attention for the wrong reasons in a fourth-quarter skirmish with James.
The pair got tangled up away from the ball, with James pushing Green to the floor before stepping over him. In response, Green flung an arm towards the groin of James – making minimal contact – before shoving him, leading the duo to briefly square up.
LeBron James-Draymond Green beef during game 4 pic.twitter.com/M4cPp1MZ7G
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 11, 2016
“I felt he stepped over me, and you’re not just going to step over me,” Green said on NBA TV.
“There are many routes you can take. Don’t just step over me like that. So we had our words and it is what it is. I don’t care who you are. I’m not going to back down from you.”
Speaking to reporters in the locker room, Green added: “It’s the NBA Finals. Game four. They’re trying to tie it up 2-2, we’re trying to go ahead 3-1. Stuff happens.”
Both players were assessed a foul for the incident, although there have been suggestions Green could be subject to league discipline that could keep him out of game five on Monday.
Green will receive an automatic suspension if he receives two more technical fouls or one more flagrant foul. The NBA can upgrade his foul on James to a flagrant if it sees fit.
James, who also took issue to some words directed at him by Green, said: “Draymond just said something that I don’t agree with. I’m all cool with the competition. I’m all fine with that, but the words that came out of his mouth were a little bit overboard.
“And being a guy with pride, a guy with three kids and a family… some things just go overboard and that’s where he took it.
“They’ll [the NBA] take a look at it. We all saw it in the locker room. Like I said, as a competitor, I love going against Draymond and I’m all about going out there and leaving it out on the floor.
“But when it gets a little bit more than it should be, that’s what caused me to have words with him.”