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.
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.
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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