LeBron James has grown increasingly frustrated by the manner in which he's been officiated this season.
James' frustration boiled over with 2:09 remaining in the first quarter, when he shouted at referee Tyler Ford and was assessed a rare technical foul -- just his second of the season -- after Utah's Shelvin Mack fouled James and put him on the foul line after an and-1 layup. James felt like Mack fouled him on another layup attempt and there was no whistle.
James was irate, in part, because, sources told ESPN, he could hear Quin Snyder instruct Mack to foul him to prevent the transition bucket, and even with that instruction being given and James absorbing what he thought to be obvious contact from Mack, no call was made.
James' teammate, Richard Jefferson, spoke up after the Phoenix game on James' behalf.
"This is another night where he's going to the basket and he's only getting six three throws, eight free throws," Jefferson told Fox Sports Ohio. "For a guy that spends as much time in the paint and drives and is aggressive as he is, for him to be bottom 15 in the league in free throw attempts given that he's the best player on the planet, four-time MVP, it's [disappointing].
"You can tell that the referees have a very difficult job reffing him, and to his credit, he keeps his cool for the most part; but as his teammate, it is tough to watch him go, go, go, get hit and not get calls. The referees have a very difficult job, he's a unique player."
James has felt like a target in the past, multiple sources told ESPN, even believing that in previous playoff series against the Washington Wizards early in his career, the Wizards' intent was not only to foul James but physically harm him.