With 7:06 left to go in the fourth quarter, J.R. Smith was called for a flagrant 2 foul when his right elbow caught Jason Terry square in the face. That meant an automatic ejection for Smith, and it could have repercussions for Game 4 on Sunday as the Knicks try to close the Celtics out.
Terry had to be restrained by teammates.
“I was trying to draw the foul,” Smith said in the locker room after the game. “He reached in one time. I thought he was gonna reach in again a second time. I was gonna try to get a quick shot off, but they made a call that the refs saw. Not really much I could do about it.”
Both Smith and coach Mike Woodson insisted the elbow was not intentional.
“He’ll learn from it,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “I don’t think he was trying to hurt the kid, I thought he was trying to clear space. But they saw it differently and he had to exit the game. That’s something he’ll learn from, and I’m going to stay in his ear and make sure he learns from it.”
Doc Rivers, meanwhile, was asked to comment on the incident. As he said, “I hate doing it, you know that.”
“I don’t know,” Rivers said. “I wish I was playing. I didn’t like that. They were up. I’m going to stop. I’ve already given up money.”
Rivers, of course, was already fined $25,000 this week for labeling the referees’ calls on Kevin Garnett “horrendous” after Game 2 at Madison Square Garden.
Smith said he was going to prepare to play on Sunday, though flagrant 2 fouls can come with fines or suspensions after they are reviewed by the league.
“I don’t really know,” he said when asked if the ejection was warranted. “I’m not really the judge of that. I’m going to let them do what they do. I’m really trying to stay away from getting into it with the officials. I’ve got to keep my head.
“It was a bad basketball play on my behalf just because I got kicked out of the game. My team needs me. Just got to get ready to play Sunday.”