Because Johnson and the Pistons are outplaying LeBron and the Cavaliers? No. Detroit isn’t, and LeBron has schooled Johnson when matched up.
Because Johnson is young, used to winning – he was a four-time high school state champion and reached the Elite Eight with Arizona – and doesn’t know any better? That’s most of it.
But also because LeBron, who tried downplaying his matchup with the Stans, acted for a moment as if Johnson were in his head.
Johnson made a 3-pointer in the first quarter, and the Cavs called timeout. As they returned to their benches, LeBron bumped Johnson:
Johnson, via Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:
“That was fugazi,” Johnson said, using a slang term for fake. “He didn’t bump me. I just didn’t move out of his direction. I don’t know what y’all take from that. I don’t take anything from it. But a cheap-ass shot, a cheap-ass bump.”
If LeBron were overly concerned about Johnson, it only fueled him. LeBron dominated the rest of Cleveland’s Game 2 win.
But the Pistons weren’t done with him.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue and general manager David Griffin are considering sending the video to the league office for review.
I suppose that wouldn’t hurt. Stan Van Gundy is also lobbying for favorable calls on LeBron.
But LeBron doesn’t find it necessary.
LeBron, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
“There hasn’t been one dirty play in the series,” James said. “For me, I’m the last person to ever allow physical play go to the other side. I know how much I mean to my team and I understand what this is all about and I will make sure our guys understand that we’re here to play basketball. Everything else is irrelevant.
“We want to play physical, we want to get up into those guys, make it tough on them, but, like I said, the game is played between the four lines and the video here, video there, it means absolutely nothing. I took a shot. It’s OK, I’m still standing tall. I’ll be ready on Friday.”
When LeBron was bemoaning the Cavaliers’ lack of an enforcer after they let Kendrick Perkins walk, I said the team’s top players needed to show their own toughness. This is LeBron’s opportunity to prove he can.