Now that we're at the conference finals stage in the playoffs, the stakes are a lot higher and the intensity and level of competition is turned up.
That means we can expect to see more chippiness between opposing players as they look to gain a psychological and physical advantage.
But on some occasions, this can go too far and there was a clear case of this in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night.
With the Boston Celtics in control of the game late on and enjoying all the momentum, Cleveland Cavaliers veteran J.R. Smith let his frustrations get the better of him.
As Al Horford went up to catch a lob from Marcus Smart late in the fourth quarter, Smith dangerously pushed him as he was in mid-air and the big man landed hard on his hip.
Thankfully, the Celtics center wasn't hurt badly on the play and was able to quickly get back up but that didn't stop his teammate Marcus Smart coming to his defence as he took exception to the foul.
Smart immediately confronted Smith and got into a shoving match with him before both sets of players intervened to make sure things didn't escalate.
Speaking about the incident after the game, the Boston point guard explained how the Cavs man had previous for this type of play against the Celtics and likened him to a bully.
“You just can’t allow that to keep happening. 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,” Smart said, per the Boston Globe.
“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 offence to it.”
Smart is a real fans' favourite and this moment endeared him to the Boston faithful even more.
“We’re out there to play basketball,” he said. “You know, I just looked at it, Al is a defenceless person. He’s in the air. He can’t control how his body goes, and he’s not even looking, and you go and take two hands to the back, that’s a dirty shot.”
The crowd inside TD Garden already loved what they saw from the 24-year-old on the court as he had a big impact on the 107-94 win.
He put his fingerprints all over the game with 11 points, five rebounds, nine assists and four steals.
His energy, intensity and hustle were important all night as he produced a real spark for the C's.
They'll now head to Cleveland with a 2-0 lead and one foot already in the NBA Finals.
Listen HERE to episode two of the new GiveMeSport NBA podcast, featuring New York Times senior writer Marc Stein.
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