CLEVELAND (Ohio) • When Jared Cunningham threw a bad pass out of bounds, LeBron James had seen enough. He abruptly signalled for a sub, then stormed off the court and sat down on the bench on Saturday night while play continued around him.
The Cleveland Cavaliers did not have enough time to get a substitute into the National Basketball Association league 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 over 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 apologised to his team-mates afterwards.
"I blew a gasket," he said.
Guard Jeff Teague came off the bench to score 13 points, Kyle Korver netted 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. He stepped out to the three-point line on the court and and appeared to bump referee Ben Taylor, prompting the dismissal.
Budenholzer looked bewildered by the sending-off and did not have many answers afterwards, either.
"He threw me out and that's his prerogative," Budenholzer said. "If there was contact, it was 100 per cent unintentional."
Kenny Atkinson took over coaching the Hawks (9-6), who have lost four of their last five games.
"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.
"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," Blatter said. "That's not what we should be. We know better than that, let's put it that way."