2018 Playoffs | Eastern Conference Finals: Celtics (2) vs. Cavaliers (4)

Boston Celtics shrug off Tyronn Lue's talk of them 'gooning' in series

The Boston Celtics’ 107-94 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers gave them a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals. In the aftermath of it, it also provided them with some potential fuel for the rest of the series, courtesy of Cavs coach Tyronn Lue.

Tensions were already high between the teams as Game 2 wound down. That was because of a play with 3 minutes, 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter when JR Smith shoved an airborne Al Horford in the back. That resulted in a flagrant foul 1 on Smith, who has a history of some physical plays against the Celtics in playoffs series past. He was whistled for a flagrant foul in the 2015 Cavs-Celtics series for his hit on Jae Crowder.

After last night’s Game 2, Lue accused the Celtics of “gooning the game up,” words that did not particularly seem to concern Boston. Here’s more from ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin on the Celtics’ response to Lue’s comments:

“I don’t even know what to say to that,” guard Jaylen Brown said. “I agree, I guess.”

Boston forward Marcus Morris added his assessment.

“Gooning? That’s a good word,” Morris said. “S—, we’re doing what it takes. Whatever it takes, every player, 1 to 15, whatever it takes, that’s what we’re doing. You call it what you want to call it. We’re just trying to get the win.”

“I mean, we just play hard,” Celtics forward Al Horford said. “We go out there, we compete. It’s Celtics basketball. We’re really embracing Celtics basketball. We’re playing hard. We’ve got each other’s backs, and that’s it.”

Celtics guard Marcus Smart had some pointed words for Smith in his postgame news conference, calling Smith’s foul on Horford “dirty” and citing the past the team and Smith share with each other.

“Oh, man, we’re out there to play basketball,” Smart said. “You know, and I just looked at it: Al is a defenseless person. He’s in the air. He can’t control how his body goes, and he’s not even looking. And you go and take two hands to the back; that’s a dirty shot. You just can’t allow that to keep happening.

“That’s not the first time JR has done some dirty stuff, especially playing against us. He’s known for it, especially playing against us. We know that. So, you know, it’s like a bully: You keep letting a bully keep picking on you, he’s going to pick 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.”

While there were some other physical incidents in Game 2 — a shoving match between the Cavs’ Tristan Thompson and Morris in the third quarter in particular — what seemed to irk the Cavs more was their response (or lack thereof) to the Celtics’ physical style.

“They’re going to play physical,” Thompson told reporters after Game 2. “They got to. That gets them going, and they’ve got players that are gritty players that play hard. That’s their edge, that’s what they bring to the table. Guys got to be ready for that. And if you’re not ready, then you can’t play.”

Additionally, Lue cited his team’s lack of mental toughness in the Game 2 loss and knows the Cavs can’t afford for a repeat performance in Game 3 on Saturday (8:30 ET, ESPN).

“We’ve got to be tougher, mentally and physically,” Lue said. “We’ve got to come out swinging. We’ve got to be aggressive. I think we’ve got to be physical, and we’ve got to have a physical mindset, you know, that they’re coming in, playing tough. They’re aggressive, and we’ve got to match that.”

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