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Cavaliers get their sweep, but at what cost?

Love's injury and Smith's likely suspension put damper on win

POSTED: Apr 27, 2015 12:39 PM ET

By Sekou Smith

BY Sekou Smith


— They got their sweep.

They flexed just enough muscle in becoming the first Eastern Conference team to punch a ticket to the conference semifinals.

But at what cost?

The Cavaliers exacted their pound of flesh from the Boston Celtics Sunday, finishing off the No. 7 seed in a 101-93 Game 4 win Sunday at TD Garden. The toll, however, could be significant. It is likely going to cost them two starters -- Kevin Love to injury and J.R. Smith to suspension -- when they hit the floor next.

Love was the first casualty in what turned out to be a ridiculously physical affair, even by playoff standards, when he got tangled up with Celtics reserve big man Kelly Olynyk chasing a rebound and got his left arm dislocated when Olynynk yanked his arm with 5:22 to play in the first quarter.

Love Dislocates Left Shoulder

Kevin Love leaves the game after injuring his shoulder while battling for the rebound with Kelly Olynyk.

"I thought It was a bush league play," Love said afterwards from the Cleveland locker room with arm in a sling. "I was out there and Olynynk was in a compromised position with no chance to get the ball, and it's just too bad that he would go to those lengths to take somebody out the game and do that to someone. I have no doubt in my mind that he did that on purpose."

Smith delivered the blow after halftime, swinging and knocking Jae Crowder to the the floor as the two battled under the basket fighting for position on a rebound with 10:24 to play. Crowder sprained his left knee on the fall and Smith was ejected. He knows that a suspension is on the way.

Crowder Injured, Smith Ejected

J.R. Smith is ejected after receiving a flagrant 2 foul for hitting Jae Crowder in the face.

"It was nothing malicious about it, I didn't try to hurt him or anyone else, That's not the way I play the game," said Smith, who two years ago on this same floor, while playing for the New York Knicks, elbowed Jason Terry on the chin in Game 3 of the series and was suspended for Game 4. "I got the Flagrant 2 and let my teammates down. We still advanced. But it's not a good feeling going into the next round.

"I've been in this situation before in the playoffs and it's just not a good feeling, going to a new team and a new situation and feeling like things are coming on the up and up and then to end up 'back in this situation' again. It's nothing that I wanted to happen but unfortunately my team is going to have to pay for it.

"I know I'm nervous as hell to see what could come out of this. It's a selfish act because I don't want anything one person does to take away from what we do collectively, whether it's me or anybody else, so I'm nervous as hell and hopefully it works out for the best."

Love will be reevaluated on Monday, so there is no telling what his status will be as the Cavaliers await the winner of the Chicago Bulls (up 3-1) and Milwaukee Bucks series. Injuries of this nature can require varying degrees of treatment, depending on if there was just a sprain associated with the dislocated shoulder or a tear of the labrum or rotator cuff, according to a head athletic trainer for one NBA team. A minimum 2-3 weeks is a standard recovery time for a sprain. A labrum tear or rotator cuff tear could require surgery and anywhere from 4-6 months recovery time.

"I thought It was a bush league play. I was out there and [Kelly] Olynynk was in a compromised position with no chance to get the ball, and it's just too bad that he would go to those lengths to take somebody out the game and do that to someone. I have no doubt in my mind that he did that on purpose.

– Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love

He said he expects the league to look at the play and the punishment for Olynyk needs to be "just and swift."

Smith, on the other hand, is sure to see a multiple game suspension for the lick he passed, a vicious, no-look right hand that caught Crowder clean across the chin.

"This is a beautiful game and it's also a physical game," Cleveland coach David Blatt said addressing the play Love was injured on while also acknowledging the inevitable where Smith is concerned. "And you have to expect the physicality. But there's a line that shouldn't be crossed and that's what the league is for."

All of the good vibrations from this Cavaliers crew completing their first playoff series together as a group, the need for LeBron James, Love and Kyrie Irving to cross this first item off their postseason bucket list as a Big Three, pales in comparison to the reality of their situation going forward.

The Cavaliers took the bait and engaged the Celtics in a street fight rather than rising above the chippy play and just allowing their talent and seasoning to rule the day.

They've put themselves in a position where they'll potentially have to rely on someone else to fill the void left by the absence of both Love, for who knows how long, and Smith, for at least a few games.

And if you thought things were intense against the Celtics, you can only imagine the emotions that will run through both sides in a Cavaliers-Bulls conference semifinal filled with players with extensive histories of going at each other in the cauldron that is the playoffs.

GameTime: Cavs-Celtics Physical Play Analysis

Rick Fox and Michael Malone talk about the physical play in Game 4 between the Cavaliers and Celtics.

"You want to play the game of basketball the right way," LeBron said. "You want to play physical. But you never want to have the game to get out of hand where you have injuries. And we had two of them tonight. And you don't wish that on nobody. And now look where we are sitting, possibly with one of our big guys out possibly, and their respective team they have a guy who may be out for a period of time as well. So you don't ever want the game to get out of hand. You just want guys to play the game right way."

The Cavaliers will have some time to see what they did well and what they didn't do as well against the Celtics. They should have time to dissect the video from these first four playoff games for this group and come up with some remedies for whatever didn't work and fine-tune the things that did.

But the challenge will be different without Love and Smith in the lineup. Facing the Bulls, provided they finish off the Bucks, of course, is a tough enough task. Doing it, potentially, without two of their top five players available, makes it a monstrous undertaking.

Both Love and Smith are two of the Cavaliers' best floor spacers, players that would be crucial for any team, but especially this one, as they wade deeper into the playoff waters.

So in the end, the short-term mission was accomplished. The Cavaliers handled the business at hand, but could pay for it dearly in the immediate future, depending on the word on Love's shoulder and Smith's suspension.

"We feel like we advanced," LeBron said. "We know that we advanced. But it's going to get tougher and tougher ... there's a lot of things up in the air right now, things we can't control. But we have to get the guys out there and prepare this whole week and get ready for our next challenge. We only can control what we can control, if Love is out and J.R., whatever happens with him, it's the next man up. Next man up and we'll see what happens."

More like next men up.

Sekou Smith is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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