The Cleveland Cavaliers are through to the conference semifinals after a clean 4-0 sweep of the Boston Celtics, but game 4 did leave it’s mark, with Kevin Love dislocating his shoulder, possibly on purpose by Kelly Olynyk, while J.R. Smith got ejected for punching Jae Crowder, who dished out and took quite a bit of punishment.
There was also some basketball in this game, and in that aspect, the Cavaliers are a much better team. They jumped to a big lead but after Kevin Love was out with his shoulder injury, the Celtics managed to get close, but not enough. LeBron James scored 27 points, needing two more assists for a triple double; Kyrie Irving scored 24 and grabbed 11 rebounds. Iman Shumpert stepped up and scored 15 off the bench. When it came down to talent, it wasn’t really a question who is the better team.
You might say the Celtics reaped what they sowed in the previous game, by trying to turn this series into some sort of brawl instead of focusing on basketball. Jae Crowder and others did more than just get in the Cavaliers’ face. Isaiah Thomas was able to get away with fouling James while he was trying to inbound a ball. This wasn’t a nice series.
But the biggest events were a little more straightforward. It began with Olynyk putting Kevin Love in an armbar and dislocating his shoulder. Rick Fox, who is a Celtics fan (and former player) tried to suggest Love did the same thing seconds earlier while grappling for a rebound, but Olynyk didn’t just hold Love. He threw him to the ground, and wasn’t exactly worried about hurting him or not. Love says he feels a lot better already, but it’s too soon to tell if he’ll be healthy for game 1 of the next series.
Olynyk should have been ejected. And Jae Crowder shouldn’t have finished the game. But referees did a bad job all throughout this series and in game 4 simply gave up, allowing things to escalate to a point the league can’t be happy with. Kendrick Perkins levelled Crowder with a screen in the first half, and J.R. Smith, after getting hit by Crowder too many times, punched him in the face, although he says it wasn’t intentional. Smith was the one eventually sent to the locker room, and might be suspended for the Cavs’ next game.
The Celtics tried with the only weapon they had and failed. The Cavaliers should never have retaliated with the kind of punching firepower, because it might damage them more than it helped out. They didn’t lose the game because of the events, but things would have gone a lot smoother had everyone remained cool. The Bulls (or Bucks) won’t be any gentler as well, but are both better basketball teams than the Celtics. Above all, Love needs to get healthy as soon as possible. He’s that critical.