Smith had the ball on the wing with seven minutes left in the game with the Knicks holding a commanding 19-point lead, and squared up against Jason Terry looking to take him one-on-one. Terry lunged for the ball, and struck Smith with what appeared to be a below-the-belt jab.
The newly announced Sixth Man of the Year took exception to it, as swung the ball through, hitting Terry in the chin. After a second or two, Terry went down and immediately sprang back up to pursue Smith, who walked away without even looking back, but was held back by his teammates.
Smith definitely got a good shot on him, but his coach and teammates (including Tyson Chandler) didn’t see the incident as intentional. Looking at the replay, it was more tricep than elbow, and Terry definitely did a great job of selling it.
“I don’t think [J.R.] tried to hurt anyone…” Mike Woodson said. “It looked like a basketball play, trying to clear space, to me.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn’t agree, spitefully saying, “I wish I was playing.”
Smith deserved a flagrant foul for his actions, but being ejected and suspended for Game 4 for a play that didn’t result in any further confrontation is ridiculous.
Postseason basketball is supposed to be tough, gritty, physical, and intense. Suspending Smith for that “elbow” just furthers the growing notion that the NBA has gone soft.