CLEVELAND (Ohio) • The Cleveland Cavaliers rode a red-hot Kevin Love to victory on Tuesday, but LeBron James' own hot streak took him right out of the game.
Love scored a season-high 38 points and the Cavaliers beat the Miami Heat 108-97 in the National Basketball Association (NBA), but the win will be forever remembered as the first time in 1,082 career games that James was ejected.
He was tossed with 1min 59sec left in the third quarter for arguing a no-call with referee Kane Fitzgerald. He screamed at the official for not calling a foul against Hassan Whiteside on James' drive to the hoop.
"I got fouled and I showed my frustrations to the ref and he sent me to the locker room," said James, who finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals.
Fitzgerald, who is in his ninth NBA season, said to a pool reporter that James' ejection was "a culmination of a couple different acts".
"Immediately after the no-call, he turned and threw an air punch directly at me and then he aggressively charged at me and used vulgarity in my ear a few times," he said.
James said he was "surprised" over the ejection because "I said what I had to say and I was moving on and he decided to throw me out", though he incorrectly thought Fitzgerald assessed him two technicals. The referee had handed him a straight ejection after the single technical.
"Yup. Should have got thrown out," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.
"I really don't know what he said. He got kicked out. Want me to go against the ref? No, he got thrown out. He's out."
James' team-mate, Dwyane Wade, was a little more diplomatic.
LETTING OFF STEAM
I got fouled and I showed my frustrations to the ref and he sent me to the locker room.
LEBRON JAMES, Cleveland superstar, disagreeing with the referee's decision to throw him out.
"I mean, I just thought it was quick," Wade said.
"I mean, a player like him, you give him the benefit of the doubt."
The Cavs (14-7), who led by as many as 34 points, have won nine straight games for their longest regular-season winning streak since Jan 15-Feb 5, 2015.
The Heat (10-10) had their three-game winning streak snapped. Dion Waiters led them with 21 points and Bam Adebayo scored 19. Josh Richardson added 15 but Goran Dragic was limited to seven points on one-of-five shooting.
"It started right from the beginning. We were on our heels and they felt like a different level than us tonight," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Wade scored 17 points off the Cleveland bench, including eight in the fourth quarter with James in the shower. The Cavs also set a season high with 75 points in the first half.
Love scored 22 of his points in the first quarter alone. On Nov 23 last year, he set an NBA record with 34 in the first quarter against Portland and finished with 40 points that night.
"(It was) a little bit different just because (against) Portland I hit seven or eight threes in that first quarter," he said.
"That's tough to do again. It's not easy. But as far as the aggressiveness of all of our guys and myself included, it was a big quarter for us."
A SERIES OF EVENTS
Immediately after the no-call, he turned and threw an air punch directly at me and then he aggressively charged at me and used vulgarity in my ear a few times.
KANE FITZGERALD, NBA referee, explaining the sequence of violations.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE