CLEVELAND: Kevin Love’s postseason career spanned a little more than three games. At this point, no one is quite sure when it will resume. J.R. Smith is suspended again, and suddenly the Cavaliers’ once-vibrant title hopes are lingering in perilous doubt.
Love was ruled out for the entire Eastern Conference semifinals series by the Cavs on Monday, while Smith was suspended for two games by the league for his punch of Celtics forward Jae Crowder during Sunday’s Game 4 victory in Boston.
That means the Cavs will be without 40 percent of their starting lineup — and one-third of their scoring — for the first two games of the next series, which will likely be against the Chicago Bulls.
Love was diagnosed with “acute anterior inferior glenohumeral dislocation with corresponding ligament/labrum tearing and humeral head bone bruising,” according to the team. In layman’s terms, he dislocated his left shoulder and suffered torn ligaments and a torn labrum. A determination on his availability beyond the second round will be made in the coming days, the team said.
Love was injured fighting for a rebound during the first quarter Sunday when the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk pinned Love’s left arm under his own arm and pulled it out of the socket. Love called it a “bush league” play.
“I have no doubt in my mind that he did that on purpose,” Love said, adding he expected the league to look at it and for punishment to be “swift and just.”
Olynyk was suspended one game by the league Monday, meaning he’ll sit next season’s opener. Cavs center Kendrick Perkins avoided a suspension but was fined $15,000 for his flagrant foul on Crowder. Perkins shoved Crowder near the neck and throat on a vicious screen, leaving many within the league believing Monday Perkins should have been ejected.
Olynyk, who did not speak to reporters on Sunday, told the Boston Globe on Monday that Love clamped his arm first, so he clamped back and was trying to hold Love away so Avery Bradley could get the rebound.
“Obviously I would never intentionally hurt him or any player on the floor,” Olynyk told the Globe. “I don’t think anybody in our league would intentionally try and hurt someone, especially at this time of year.
“It’s terrible the way it happened. But, you know, it’s a part of basketball. Everyone gets tangled up and stuff. Unfortunately it happened. You’re always locked up, grabbing, pulling.”
Olynyk said he tried contacting Love to apologize, but hadn’t yet reached him.
“I’d probably get killed if I went to Cleveland right now,” Olynyk said. “I don’t think if someone gave me their arm and I was running forward like that and locked up, I don’t think I could dislocate someone’s arm if I tried. I think it’s a real tough thing to do. Like I said before, it’s kind of ridiculous to say you intentionally meant to. I’d never intentionally hurt someone, him or anybody else for that matter.”
The Cavs took Monday off following the series sweep and likely spent the day formulating a revamped plan of attack. Smith’s violent backwards swing caught the jaw of Crowder in the third quarter and dropped him to the court instantly.
Crowder fell awkwardly on his left knee. He was diagnosed with a sprained ACL and avoided more serious damage, such as a full tear of the ligament.
“I figured I would be much better at keeping my composure in these things,” Smith said Sunday. “I think we as a team would be better at that. Unfortunately it happened and there’s nothing we can do about it now.”
This is the seventh time Smith has been suspended, including six times by the league and once by his own team (the Denver Nuggets). The suspensions now total 29 games missed and this is the second time in his career he has been suspended during the playoffs.
The conference finals cannot begin before May 17. If the Cavs can survive the second round without Love, he would have exactly three weeks to heal. But even those within the organization consider that to be reaching given the severity of the injury.
The Cavs, however, can’t worry about that now. They’ll have enough problems with the Bulls knowing they’re without Love for the entire series and Smith for the start of it. Those two combined for 33.4 points per game during the regular season.
The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Bulls in Game 5 of their first-round series Monday night, meaning the semifinals will open no earlier than next Monday in Cleveland.
Love had X-rays and an MRI at the Cleveland Clinic on Monday and was examined by Cavs doctors. He is seeking additional opinions, the team said.
“It’s next man up,” LeBron James said Sunday. “What goes on with our team, those are two big pieces, obviously, next man up. No excuses. You just get ready to go out and play.”
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.