(The Sports Xchange) - When Jared Cunningham threw a bad pass out of bounds, LeBron James had seen enough. He abruptly signaled for a sub, then stormed off the court and sat down on the bench on Saturday while play continued around him.
The Cavaliers did not have enough time to get a sub into the game and were whistled for a technical -- all while they were ahead by 26 points in the third quarter.
Kevin Love scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while James finished two assists shy of a triple-double in Cleveland’s 109-97 victory against the Atlanta Hawks in an Eastern Conference finals rematch from last season.
Yet James and coach David Blatt still found plenty to be upset about despite a win that was not as close as the final score indicated.
“He was frustrated, knew we weren’t playing right and thought we were playing hockey. Hockey sub,” Blatt joked of James’ tantrum. “I understand his frustration but obviously you shouldn’t do that.”
James said he apologized to his team mates afterward.
“I blew a gasket,” he said.
Hawks guard Jeff Teague came off the bench to score 13 points, Kyle Korver scored 14 and forward Paul Millsap had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Hawks, who played most of the night without their coach.
Mike Budenholzer was ejected with 6:27 left in the second quarter and the Hawks trailing by 12. Budenholzer stepped out to the three-point line on the court and appeared to bump referee Ben Taylor, prompting the ejection.
Budenholzer looked bewildered by the ejection and did not have many answers afterward, either.
“He threw me out and that’s his prerogative,” Budenholzer said. “If there was contact, it was 100 percent unintentional.”
Kenny Atkinson took over coaching the Hawks, who have lost four of their last five.
“Coach said we had no intensity on the defensive end and no patience on the offensive end,”
Hawks guard Dennis Schroder said. “We’ve got to do better.”
The Cavs are a conference-best 10-3, remain unbeaten at home and had little trouble with one of the best teams in the league despite playing without three starters and four of their top eight players overall.
Yet they were unhappy with various parts of the game.
Blatt did not like some of the shot selection in the first half, thought there were too many defensive breakdowns in the second half and thought a lot of bad passes led to silly turnovers.
“It was kind of disjointed in terms of how well we played at some moments and then how helter-skelter and off-keel we played at other moments,” Blatt said. “That’s not what we should be. We know better than that, let’s put it that way.”
James had 19 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists while Tristan Thompson grabbed 16 rebounds and matched a career-high with five assists.
Thompson started at center in place of Timofey Mozgov, who could miss two weeks with a strained right shoulder. Cleveland was also without backup point guard Mo Williams, who has been starting in place of the injured Kyrie Irving.
None of that mattered.
They shot 48 percent, passed for 27 assists on 41 baskets and led by as many as 26 without James.
James did not score until 5:42 remained in the first half, extending the Cavs’ lead to 46-31 on a night he was happy to facilitate despite the team’s rash of injuries.
“Tonight was one of those nights where the guys did a great job of carrying me,” James said. “I tried to do other things, rebound the ball at a high level, get guys the ball. They did a great job of executing offensively.”
Compiled by Peter Rutherford