LeBron James may find ending the Cavs’ 51-year title drought by this summer more challenging now due to Kevin Love’s injured shoulder and J.R. Smith’s recently-lost common sense.
This Sunday’s Game 4 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics was neither clean nor pretty. Two Cleveland players were severely injured, while Smith was suspended from the first games in the second-round over an unsportsmanlike behavior involving a backhand punch.
So, Cleveland’s victory in the playoff series involved some costs. Since Game 1, Kevin Love and LeBron managed to become an unstoppable machine that carried the team over the Celtics in at least a couple of playoffs. But as the duo must split, James’ plans to win the title for his club this June may have to wait.
Love dislocated his shoulder after a close encounter with Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk in the first quarter. As the two players were fighting for a rebound, Olynyk aggressively pulled his rival’s arm. Seconds later, with a grimace of pain, Love quickly sprinted to the locker room.
He later told reporters that he had no doubts that Olynyk did it on purpose. On Monday night, the NBA announced that Kelly Olynyk was suspended one game.
But in the final 43 minutes, surprises weren’t over. Cleveland’s Kendrick Perkins tried to level James on a hard screen, but he managed to deck Jae Crowder. The move ended with Perkins poking Crowder’s eye, two technical fouls for both players, and a $15,000 fine for Perkins.
However, Perkins may have gotten personal with Crowder since the two players had had another encounter in 2013, when Perkins received a technical foul for verbally offending Crowder.
Yet, Crowder’s problems were far from being over. As he was fighting with Smith under the basket, he received a punch in the face. Although Smith was taunted by Crowder, his response was exaggerated and uncalled for. Smith’s punch in the jaw decked Crowder to the floor and made him injure one knee. Crowder had to leave court.
Smith argued that he was unintentional, but as the video showed otherwise he stated that he was “nervous as hell” over the incoming suspension.
The Cavaliers will now face the Chicago Bulls Saturday in the second round. But if the Bulls, which currently lead the series, dodge Game 7, the two teams will dispute victory on Sunday.
As Love recovers from his injury, he may stay off field at most six days, while Smith is set to miss the first couple of games in the second round. However, it is not the first time Smith is suspended. Two years ago he missed one game after a suspension for elbowing a Celtics player. That move cost the Knicks two games and a very short time to rest before entering the second round.
After that episode, the relationships between Smith and the Knicks cooled, so the next year he was already traded to the Cavs. Cleveland helped Smith to regain his focus and put a temporary end to his clubbing habits.
But after this Sunday’s incident the history may repeat itself, and his lack of self-control may cost both him and his team again dearly.
Image Source: Fansided