Marcus Smart sure wasn’t happy with J.R. Smith late in the fourth quarter of Game 2.
As Al Horford was attempting to field an alley-oop pass from Smart, Smith delivered a forceful two-handed push from behind. Horford came crashing down under the basket, while Smart immediately rushed into the paint to confront Smith.
“Al was a defenseless person,” Smart said of the play. “He’s in the air. He can’t control how his body goes. He’s not even looking, and you go and take two hands to the back, that’s a dirty shot.”
Smith — who acknowledged he “blatantly pushed” Horford — was issued a flagrant foul upon review. Both Smith and Smart were also issued technical fouls for their ensuing scuffle. When asked about the altercation, Smart told reporters he was just trying to stick up for a teammate.
“You just can’t allow that to keep happening,” he said. “That’s not the first time J.R. has done some dirty stuff, especially playing against us. He’s known for it, especially playing against us. We know that.”
“It’s like a bully,” Smart continued. “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.”
The Garden crowd naturally responded with a profane chant directed at Smith, but the Cavs guard said he didn’t mind the jeers; in fact, he apparently enjoyed them.
“I love it,” Smith said. “I don’t want the opposing fans to like me. They can chant and scream all they want. It actually makes me feel better about myself.”
Fortunately for the Celtics, Horford did not collide with the stanchion or the stands upon falling to the ground. He did not appear overly shaken up on the play — one that carried potential for injury.
“I felt like it was uncalled for, that type of play there,” Horford said. “But that’s one thing about the group of our guys, we have each other’s backs, and it is what it is.”
Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris echoed his sentiment.
“We’ve gotten a lot tighter over these last two months,” Morris said. “We’re backed in that approach — guys being there for each other, standing up for each other. That’s a winning mentality.”
Never one to back down from nearly anything, Smart said his fearlessness is a product of his upbringing.