SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- With the Cleveland Cavaliers' 99-92 Christmas Day loss to Golden State Warriors two days in the rearview and the NBA admitting Tuesday that several calls were missed down the stretch -- one that should have gone against LeBron James; three that should have gone against Kevin Durant -- James says the thing that irks him most is when an official refuses to acknowledge that an infraction occurred.
"I think for me the worst thing is when I actually go and talk to the ref and they say, 'It was nothing,'" James said at shootaround Wednesday as the Cavs prepared to play the Sacramento Kings. "Like I go over (and say to the official), 'You didn't see that?' 'No I didn't think it was anything. It was no call. No foul.' That's the worst for me. If he says, 'I missed that one' or 'maybe I wasn't in the right position,' but when you see the ref right there on the baseline looking at the whole play and you go up to him and he says there's no call multiple times in crunch time? That's the frustrating part. And for me it's even more frustrating because I know how I'm officiated at times."
Durant, according to the league, fouled James twice with less than 30 seconds to go in the fourth quarter and Cleveland down 95-92, first making forearm contact to the Cavs star that affected his "speed, quickness, balance, rhythm" and then making contact to his arm and body that affected his driving shot attempt, which was blocked.
Referee Derrick Stafford initially signaled it as the Cavs' ball, but his call was overturned after the review, and the Warriors were awarded the possession.
When asked if officials should be allowed to retroactively assess a foul that was originally a no call if they see it while undergoing a replay review, James said, "I believe so."
Ironically, last year the league admitted the Cavs benefited from two late missed calls in their 109-108 win over the Warriors on Christmas Day.
The NBA also said Durant should have been called for a foul on James with 1:12 remaining that caused a Cavs turnover and James should have been whistled for a foul on Draymond Green for clamping Green's arm and jersey with 33 seconds left, which affected his ability to retrieve a rebound.
In an effort to increase transparency, the league issues a "Last Two Minute Report" as a public review of officiating for games that were within three points at any time in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter or the last two minutes of any overtime period during the 2017-18 season. It started in March 2015 as part of the NBA's "ongoing effort to build a greater awareness and understanding of the rules and processes that govern our game," according to the league's website.
The reports also "serve as a mechanism of accountability to our fans and the media who fairly seek clarifications after our games," according to the league. James slammed the "Last Two Minute Report" conceit last December.
"I'm not a fan of the two-minute report," James said. "I think it discredits what the referees are doing for 48 minutes. If that's the case, you might as well do a 48-minute report. "It's not fair to the referees that you only talk about the final two minutes of the game and not the first 46. There's plays that's missed, there's plays that called throughout 48 minutes that don't get talked about."
After the Cavs' latest late-game controversy, James was skeptical that handing over more control to the league's replay center in Secaucus, N.J. would be a solution to correcting missed calls in the moment at games being played out at arenas around the country.
"I don't know," James said. "That's something we got to all discuss but at the end of the day, there's nothing you can do about it. Like I said after the game, what are you going to do about it? I mean, it's nothing you can do about it. You got three referees that's there that's been in the heat of the game all game and we're allowing someone that's thousands and thousands of miles away to make a call that can be (a) bang-bang (decision) because they have a different camera or whatever the case may be. If the ref can see it, they know the call. They know what the call is. But, whatever."
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said that some degree of human error on the part of the officials, combined with general judgment, is just the cost of doing business in the NBA.
"It's part of the game," Lue said. "It's a fast game. They put that review in, it's different. But the game is so fast, guys are so strong and so powerful. When you're going to the basket, I think LeBron, he gets fouled, but he's so strong, he goes through contact a lot like Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal), a lot like (Paul) Pierce when he played. So they really don't get the benefit of the call, snapping their head back and drawing a foul like that. We've got to do a better job of selling it like everybody else does." When James heard Lue's answer about selling fouls while he was shooting on the court nearby and jerked his body back, as if he was receiving contact from a defender. "I'll have to do a lot of this tonight," he said.