Things are getting excessively physical between the Celtics and Cavaliers, so much so that Cavs Coach Tyron Lue was inspired to say that the Celtics are “gooning the game up.”
Not in a bad way, though. The series, in which Boston has a 2-0 lead, certainly has been physical (this, after all, is the playoffs), and LeBron James and the Cavs have not shied away from mixing it up, either. It’s just that they haven’t mixed it up enough, as far as Lue is concerned. “I think they’re playing tougher than we are. We’re seeing that,” he said (via Boston.com). “They’re being physical. They’re gooning the game up, and we have to do the same thing. We have to be tougher mentally and physically.”
In Boston’s 107-94 victory Tuesday night, the Cavs pushed back — literally. For instance, J.R. Smith shoved Al Horford in the back with just over three minutes in the game. Horford was already airborne at the time and Smith was slapped with a flagrant foul 1. Even Smith admitted it was too much.
“I blatantly pushed him. It wasn’t like I was trying to low-bridge him or something to make sure he didn’t get it,” he said (via ESPN). “It was a good, hard foul. I can understand why they gave me a flagrant.”
That prompted Marcus Smart to go after Smith, who pushed Smart away. Both players were given technicals and Smart noted that Smith has a history; he was suspended for two games for hitting Jae Crowder in the face during the 2015 playoffs.
“That’s not the first time J.R. has done some dirty stuff, especially playing against us,” Smart said. “He’s known for it, especially playing against us. We know that. So, you know, it’s like a bully: 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.”
As far as the Celtics go, they’re shrugging off the “gooning” label. In fact, Marcus Morris, who mixed it up with Tristan Thompson, thinks gooning is “a good word. S—, we’re doing what it takes. Whatever it takes, every player, 1 to 15, whatever it takes, that’s what we’re doing. You call it what you want to call it. We’re just trying to get the win.”
This is something of an age-old tradition among the great Celtics playoff teams of the past, as Horford pointed out. “I mean, we just play hard,” he said. “We go out there, we compete. It’s Celtics basketball. We’re really embracing Celtics basketball. We’re playing hard. We’ve got each other’s backs, and that’s it.”
Lue called for the Cavs to “come out swinging” in Game 3 on Saturday and they know they’re in for a fight of some sort.
“That’s their edge, that’s what they bring to the table. Guys got to be ready for that,” Tristan Thompson said. “And if you’re not ready, then you can’t play.”
Read more from The Post: