As an isolated incident, this play where LeBron James decided to intentionally drop his shoulder and plow into a screen-setting Carlos Boozer doesn’t have much meaning.
But given the point of the game when this occurred, and the fact that James was the one initiating the contact, it spoke volumes.
With under four minutes remaining and the Heat’s 27-game winning streak on the verge of being snapped, James delivered a hit on Boozer as he attempted to go through a screen, and was whistled for a flagrant foul.
The flagrant call was excessive, but it could be argued that the officials were simply trying to maintain control of a contentious game, one that the Bulls were leading by eight points at the time. The fact that James was hit hard by Taj Gibson on the previous possession may have factored into the officials’ view of the play, as well.
But regardless of how you view the play and the call from the officials, what was clear was how James became uncharacteristically unhinged at such a crucial point in the game.
LeBron’s stoic demeanor (save for some celebration when things have gone just right) has been a rock the Heat could rely on during that massive 27-game winning streak, and the fact that he let his emotions get the better of him, even just slightly, was a sign that the Bulls were on their way to accomplishing what no one had been able to in the last 56 days.