The Cleveland Cavaliers completed a four-game sweep over the Boston Celtics on Sunday, but it was a costly one.
In addition to losing Kevin Love with a dislocated shoulder, the Cavs may have dug themselves a huge hole moving forward thanks in large part to an ugly punch thrown by J.R. Smith.
Smith appeared to react to a shove in the back by wildly swinging his arm with a closed fist, connecting square on the chin of Jae Crowder, who immediately fell to the floor.
To make matters worse, Crowder injured his knee when he fell to the floor and had to be carried off the court.
The early report is that Crowder sprained his knee, according to WEEI in Boston. However, he will have an MRI to see how extensive the damage is.
While the Celtics’ season is over, the Cavs will now likely face the Chicago Bulls, who lead the Milwaukee Bucks 3-1 in the second round of the playoffs. With Smith and Love out, what would have already been a tough series now suddenly looks like an uphill climb for the Cavs.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN says the early speculation among the Cavs is that Love will miss at least two weeks. So it is reasonable to think Love will at the very least miss the beginning of the series against the Bulls.
Meanwhile, Smith will almost certainly be suspended for multiple games to start the series.
The punch is reminiscent of the elbow Metta World Peace threw at James Harden’s head in the 2012 playoffs. That incident resulted in a seven-game suspension.
Then-commissioner David Stern justified the length of the suspension by citing the need to protect players against violent acts, “particularly when they are directed at the head area.” Stern also alluded to World Peace’s “history of on-court altercations.”
While Smith’s history is not as ugly as World Peace’s history, it is not clean either. During the 2013 playoffs, the NBA suspended Smith for one game for throwing an elbow at an opponent’s face. In all, Smith has been suspended for 27 games in his career according to Jason Lloyd of Ohio.com.
Smith may not be suspended for seven games. But it seems safe to speculate that Smith is going to miss more than one game against the Bulls and it is going to be a huge loss for the Cavs.
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