With all that transpired in the Heat-Pacers series, from flagrant fouls to suspensions to technical fouls to choke signs, largely on the outside of it all was LeBron James.
He just played.
He said it was not a matter of not standing alongside his Heat teammates, but rather because of a higher calling to make sure he would be there for them on the court.
"I'm always in protect mode," he said, with the Heat finishing off the Pacers 105-93 Thursday and advancing to the Eastern Conference finals, which open Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena. "For me, in the playoffs or the regular season, there are teams trying to go for me. It's happened. I'm not saying guys are playing dirty, but certain guys say if you hard-foul LeBron, get him off balance, he'll stop being aggressive and things like that."
Instead, he has walked up, shot his free throws, and then walked away from the theatrics that left teammates Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman suspended from Thursday's Game 6 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
He said attempts to take him off his game have been going on nearly as long as he has been in the playoffs.
"My second time in the playoffs, against Washington, they made a point of emphasis to try to take me out of the game," he said.
"I'm used to it."
While he said of his teammates, "we all protect one another," he appreciates that he can help the most in the scoring column, which means keeping himself on the court.
And that means protecting himself as much as protecting teammates.
"For me, it's always to that point," he said. "I've always felt in a playoff series or certain regular-season games that a team might try to go for me. I'm not saying guys are playing dirty, but certain guys say, 'Foul LeBron, get him off the court.' I know when it's happening and I see when it's happening, so I'm always, 'stay in protect mode.'"
The approach, he said, is simple.
"I've been hard fouled a lot," he said. "I get fouled, get two free throws, turn back and play defense."
He said it is the same way with Dwyane Wade, although Wade did respond with a flagrant foul against Pacers point guard Darren Collison at one stage.
"We're too important for our team to retaliate," James said. "Some of the hits that we take, not only in the postseason but the regular season, as well, have been borderline. I know D-Wade has taken some. You all know I've taken some. It's a fine line. But you can't retaliate, as much as you want to, you can't because we mean too much to our team."