CLEVELAND -- When the NBA Finals are at stake, along with an embarrassment factor, too, even a friendly rivalry can turn nasty.
That was the case, at least temporarily, with Kevin Durant and LeBron James as the Warriors fell to the Cavaliers 137-116 in Game 4 Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
With 7:26 left in the third quarter and the officiating crew preparing to review a foul committed by Cavs forward Kevin Love on Durant to determine if it was flagrant, Durant and James started trading verbal jabs, their faces few inches apart.
The jawing was animated enough that referee John Goble, working his first NBA Finals game, was moved to assess double technical fouls, one for each of the superstars.
Neither player appeared to carry any grudge, and minutes later they slapped palms while on the court.
“You can't take everything away from the game,” Durant said afterward. “You're taking the hard fouls out of the game, calling them ‘flagrants,’ taking a lot of stuff out of game. But you can’t take the emotion out of the game. We weren't coming to blows; we were just talking. That's a part of basketball.
“The game of basketball created that. The refs didn't. We didn't as players. It's like the aura of the game created trash talk and just communication out there. So I know you could take away the physical part of the game as far as controlling stuff, but emotionally that should be us. That should be what the players have as their own out there.”
Durant has mentioned several times previously that he feels officials are too quick to take action when players are talking trash. He is not alone.
“I think it’s good for basketball,” Draymond Green said. “I don’t really understand the double tech. What does that accomplish? If you’re going to separate them, separate them. Don’t just stand there and look at them talk and wait for them to talk and see how long they’re going to talk and them (assess) a double technical.”
With the Cavaliers down 3-0 entering Game 4, they played their most aggressive game from the outset. Durant doesn’t believe anything will change when the teams gather at Oracle Arena for Game 5 on Monday night.
“So I'm sure it's going to continue,” he said. “There's nothing malicious or we didn't say anything malicious, it was just a part of the game. Emotions are what keep this game alive, keeps it going. It's for the players.”