Danny Granger not backing down
INDIANAPOLIS -- After two altercations in the past two games, Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger vowed Saturday he won't back down from LeBron James in heated moments of their intense series against the Miami Heat.
Granger has helped guide the Pacers to a surprising 2-1 series lead over the Heat entering Game 4 on Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. All three games have featured physical play with technical and flagrant fouls.
James and Granger had to be separated by teammates and referees for incidents in the past two games. The faceoffs have stemmed from James appearing to take exception by extending his elbow in Granger's direction after the Pacers forward either grabbed or pushed James during play.
"That's part of basketball. That's part of two men battling," Granger said after the Pacers' practice Saturday. "I'm not going to back down from anybody and he's not going to back down from anybody. And when you get that, you'll get some altercations."
After struggling through a 1-for-10 shooting performance in a Game 1 loss at Miami, Granger's play and aggressiveness in his matchup with James has picked up. Still, the Pacers' leading scorer on the season has as many fouls (12) as made shots in the series against the Heat.
For the series, the teams have combined for 141 fouls and 163 free-throw attempts. The Pacers ranked third in the league in fouls during the regular season, so the get-tough style of play is nothing new. Coach Frank Vogel said he has reminded his team of its identity often in this series.
"They understand very clearly that we are not interested in any type of ejection or suspension," Vogel said. "But they also understand very clearly that a key to this series is letting the Miami Heat know that we're not backing down from them."
Granger stopped short of suggesting that his exchanges with James rise to the level of dirty play. He also said both players are aware of how closely the NBA office is monitoring the physical intensity of their series.
"I'm not no monster. This ain't no horror movie," James said in response after Miami's practice. "I'm not trying to scare nobody. I'm trying to play basketball. He's got to hype himself up to say he's not scared of me. Have I ever been intimidated by anybody in this league? I don't think so. I go out and play my game and let my game do the talking."
Both Granger and James were assessed technical fouls when they got entangled under the basket during the Pacers' victory in Game 2 in Miami.
Granger was hit with another technical during the third quarter in Game 3 when he ran up and stood in James' face after fouling James to prevent a fast-break layup. Granger slowed down James in the open court by grabbing his jersey. James stretched out his arm to extend an elbow after Granger's momentum carried him past James.
"I think I know where the line is," Granger said. "I think (commissioner) David Stern has done a good job of (making) sure we know what the line is and what not to cross. We won't cross that line. But we just want each other to know it's going to be an intense battle, and it's going to be a fight."