Cavs-Celtics: Should J.R. Smith have been tossed for flagrant foul against Al Horford?

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ playoff run reached an inflection point Tuesday in a 107-94 loss to the Boston Celtics, and frustration appeared to take over on an ugly foul committed late in the game by guard J.R. Smith.

The Cavs, in the midst of a 39-point second half while blowing a seven-point halftime lead, were running out of time against a Celtics team that had wrested control of the game with a chance to take a 2-0 series lead.

J.R. Smith shoves defenseless Al Horford in the back

With just under four minutes to play, Boston forced a Cavs defensive switch that left Al Horford with a clear path to the basket and a lob pass from Marcus Smart. What looked like an easy two points was curtailed when Smith shoved a vulnerable Horford in the back mid-air.

Horford tumbled to the floor, and Smart confronted Smith before officials and players from both teams intervened.

Officials took time to review the play, and ultimately determined that Smith had committed a flagrant 1 foul, not a flagrant 2 that would have resulted in an ejection.

Smart and Smith were also assessed technical fouls for the post-foul fracas.

See the best photos from the first two games of the series: 

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The best photos from the Celtics-Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals
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The best photos from the Celtics-Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals
BOSTON, MA - MAY 15: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics and JR Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers get into an altercation in the second half during Game Two of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 15, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 15: LeBron James #23 and Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers react on the bench in the second half against the Boston Celtics during Game Two of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 15, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 15: Terry Rozier #12 of the Boston Celtics reacts after dunking the ball in the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers during Game Two of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 15, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 13: JR Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers attempts a shot past Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics during the second quarter in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 13: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket past Kevin Love #0 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the third quarter in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
May 13, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts to not getting a foul called during the third quarter of the Eastern conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) attempts a layup against the Boston Celtics during the third quarter in game one of the Eastern conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) is guarded by Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris (13) during the first quarter of the Eastern conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
BOSTON, MA - MAY 13: JR Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts from the bench late in the fourth quarter in his teams loss to the Boston Celtics in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-83. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 13: Boston Celtics Al Horford hauls in an offensive rebound with pressure from Cleveland Cavaliers George Hill during third quarter action. The Boston Celtics hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers for Game One of their NBA Eastern Conference Final Playoff series at TD Garden in Boston on May 13, 2018. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 13: JR Smith #5 and Jordan Clarkson #8 of the Cleveland Cavaliers react to their teams loss to the Boston Celtics in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-83. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Should the NBA review the J.R. Smith foul?

This was a dangerous and reckless foul committed by Smith that could have resulted in a Horford injury and may warrant a second look by the NBA office.

Celtics fans let Smith know what they thought of the foul during the stoppage in play.

Warning: Explicit language: 

Marcus Smart calls J.R. Smith a bully

Smart talked about the play after the game, calling Smith a bully and a dirty player who had to be dealt with.

“It’s like a bully,” Smart said of Smith. “If you let a bully keep picking on you, he’s going to keep picking on you until you finally stand up. And that’s what I tried to do. One of my guys was down, and I took offense to it.”

Smart has a point. Smith has a penchant for dirty play and has twice been thrown out of playoff games in Boston’s T.D. Garden. Smith was ejected and eventually suspended for elbowing Jason Terry in the jaw while with the New York Knicks in 2013. Officials tossed him from Game 4 of a Cavs-Celtics playoff series in 2015 for swiping Jae Crowder in the face.

Celtics legend Bill Russell, meanwhile, liked what he saw from Smart.

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