As if the Cleveland Cavaliers' troubles couldn't get any worse while the Golden State Warriors were blowing them out in their NBA Finals rematch on Monday, the officials ejected J.R. Smith after handing him a flagrant-2 foul.
Smith was the team's leading scorer at the time of his ejection with 14 points. He left with 10 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter while the Cavaliers were trailing, 76-44.
Smith rammed into Warriors forward Harrison Barnes’ shoulder to draw the foul. Referees reviewed the incident before deeming it an ejection-worthy foul.
Here’s a look at the exchange, courtesy of B/R:
The review and nature of the hit prompted speculation it should’ve been called a flagrant-1, as Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post and Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News noted:
Wow. J.R. Smith is ejected. Thought he'd get a flagrant one, but he gets an early trip to the locker room.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 19, 2016
Flagrant 2 seems way too harsh for that.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) January 19, 2016
However, Cavaliers Nation argued that Smith was tossed in part because of his past reputation of being a dirty player, as some would argue:
J.R. Smith getting ejected because he's J.R. Smith...ridiculous.— Cavaliers Nation (@WeAreCavsNation) January 19, 2016
Smith has a well-chronicled past as an aggressive defender, and Monday proved to be another case of that.
He received a flagrant-2 during last year’s playoffs after elbowing Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder, which subsequently led to a two-game suspension. Two years prior during his tenure with the New York Knicks, he was suspended a game for hitting Jason Terry in the face during a playoff game.
For the most part, Smith has shaken that stigma, but Monday presented more fodder to the argument.
The Cavaliers are well on their way to a blowout loss, so Smith’s departure wouldn’t have made much of a difference. However, a pending suspension would be a big blow to the Cavs, as they are set to face the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls this week.
And, not to mention, his actions likely won’t be soon forgotten by the Warriors if Monday’s Finals rematch turns out to be a 2016 Finals preview.