BOSTON: The Cavaliers are moving on. Now the question remains, who all is coming with them?
LeBron James scored 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and the Cavaliers swept the Boston Celtics out of the first round with a 101-93 Game 4 victory, but the larger concern now is Kevin Love’s injured left shoulder.
Love left the game with 5:22 left in the first quarter and did not return with what appeared to be a serious left shoulder injury, setting off a myriad of physical plays, injuries and ejections in what became the capstone of a physical first-round series.
Love was fighting for a rebound with the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk when his left arm was pinned under Olynyk’s right arm with 5:22 left in the quarter. Olynyk pulled hard on Love’s arm and he immediately sprinted off the court toward the locker room holding his left shoulder. He was quickly followed to the locker room by the training staff, General Manager David Griffin and members of the Cavs ownership group.
Former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins countered by flattening Jae Crowder with a hard screen around his chest and neck in the second quarter, then pointed at Crowder and touched his right jaw as the two had to be separated.
J.R. Smith was ejected early in the third quarter for catching Crowder on the jaw with a backhanded closed fist while fighting for position on a rebound. Crowder, who was the most outspoken this week in explaining the Celtics’ need to play physical, went down immediately and fell awkwardly on his left knee. He was helped off the court and was shouting at the Cavs bench as he left. He was diagnosed with a sprained left knee and did not return.
The rough play continued after Smith’s ejection; Tristan Thompson was shoved into the first row chasing a loose ball and scattered a handful of chairs upon landing, although no foul was called.
Throughout it all, the Cavs built a 21-point lead at the half – their largest of the series, then held on while the Celtics roared back within 72-64 on a 3-pointer from Jared Sullinger with 10:13 to play. The 3-pointer was just the second for the Celtics, who missed 15 of their first 16 to start the game.
The Celtics couldn’t pull within eight until the game’s final minute when the Celtics forced turnovers on a pair of inbounds passes. Gigi Datome had a chance to pull the Celtics within three with 30 seconds left, but missed the 3-pointer. Kyrie Irving grabbed the rebound and sank both free throws to seal the victory.
Irving had 24 points, 11 rebounds and three assists and Timofey Mozgov had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Iman Shumpert was terrific at both ends, particularly after Smith’s ejection. Shumpert finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and a pair of steals. He could be called on to start Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The full fallout of Sunday is yet to be determined. There was no official diagnosis or timeline available on Love, who sat in the locker room icing the shoulder immediately after the injury.
Smith, meanwhile, is facing a possible suspension for his foul on Crowder. Perkins might be suspended, too. Stu Jackson, the NBA’s former executive vice president in charge of doling out punishments, tweeted Sunday that Perkins should have been ejected for his foul and could still face a suspension.
None of which bodes well for the Cavs, who will have a week off before opening a second-round series at home next weekend, likely against the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls lead the Milwaukee Bucks 3-1 in their first-round series. Game 5 is Monday at Chicago.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.