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J.R. Smith’s ‘dirty’ antics make him perfect Cavaliers’ scapegoat

J.R. Smith’s ‘dirty’ antics make him perfect Cavaliers’ scapegoat

If the Cavaliers are looking for a scapegoat after burying themselves against the Celtics, they have an easy option in J.R. Smith.

Smith had a miserable night in the 107-94 loss to the Celtics, failing to provide the secondary scoring the Cavaliers needed beyond LeBron James and Kevin Love, missing all seven shots with zero points as the Cavaliers dropped to 0-2 in the Eastern Conference finals.

Beyond that, Smith’s recklessness might have ignited a larger fire under the Celtics.

With the Cavaliers hanging in down eight points with four minutes left, Smith shoved a defenseless Al Horford in the back as the Celtics big tried completing an alley-oop. The play sent Horford tumbling to the floor before teammate Marcus Smart confronted Smith, who then shoved Smart a few times before the two had to be separated.

The push elicited a “F–k you, JR” chant while officials reviewed the play. It also squashed any comeback chance for the Cavaliers. Smith was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul, not an ejection, and received a technical foul along with Smart for the post-play scuffle.

Horford’s sister, Anna Horford, echoed TD Garden in a tweet before dialing her emotions back. Smart called Smith “dirty” and said he’s known as that kind of player.

“It’s like a bully,” Smart said. “If you let a bully keep picking on you, he’s going to keep picking 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.”

This isn’t Smith’s first time for off-ball antics during the playoffs in Boston. He’s been ejected twice in games at TD Garden.

The Celtics series marks the second time Smith has pulled a disappearing act in the playoffs. He was a ghost against the Pacers in the opening round, shooting 31 percent from the three-point line while averaging 8.6 points across seven games.

In the conference semifinals, the 32-year-old revived himself and looked like a secondary star by contributing at least 15 points in three of the Cavaliers’ wins in their four-game sweep against the top-seeded Raptors, including shooting a torrid 10-of-13 from three.

For a team that lacks depth, the Cavaliers need more from Smith. He’s scored just four points in 56 combined minutes on 2-15 shooting, 0-7 from three while continuing to provide drama away from the basket.

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