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Isola: New team, same dirty J.R. Smith in NBA playoffs

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Cavs guard J.R. Smith is up to his old tricks, which could cost his new team the way his misplaced elbow costs Knicks in playoffs two years ago.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Cavs guard J.R. Smith is up to his old tricks, which could cost his new team the way his misplaced elbow costs Knicks in playoffs two years ago.

It was never a matter of if but when J.R. Smith would be heard from this postseason. And we’re not talking about his “How to Guide” when it comes to clubbing in Manhattan.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ sweep of the Boston Celtics on Sunday was anything but clean. Or pretty. It was a physical, ugly Game 4 that resulted in two players leaving with injuries and Smith being ejected for a vicious backhand punch that may lead to a multi-game suspension in the second round.

The Cavs won their first playoff series in five years but the collateral damage was extensive. Kevin Love suffered a potentially devastating shoulder injury that could derail LeBron James’ plan of bringing a championship to his home state in June.

The Cavs are calling Love’s injury a dislocated shoulder but the extent of the injury and a timetable won’t be determined until the power forward is examined on Monday in Cleveland. The cause of Love’s injury is indisputable: Midway through the first quarter the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk yanked on Love’s arm as the two fought for a rebound.

Love yelped in pain and immediately sprinted off the court and into the Cavs locker room. His day — and perhaps his playoffs — was over.

“I thought it was a bush-league play,” Love, his left arm in a sling, said afterwards. “I have no doubt in my mind that he did it on purpose.”

The Love injury set a physical and chippy tone for the final 43 minutes. Kendrick Perkins, the former Celtics center, leveled Boston’s Jae Crowder with a hard, illegal screen. When Crowder confronted Perkins, the Cavs back-up center got his hands up and appeared to strike Crowder. The play will be reviewed by the league and Perkins faces a possible fine and/or suspension.

Smith is all but assured of receiving a one-game ban and possibly longer for whacking Crowder in the face as the two fought for position under the basket. There is little doubt that Crowder initiated contact and could have been called for a foul.

Smith’s response, however, was dirty and uncalled for. Crowder was struck on the jaw by the sucker punch and fell so awkwardly that he injured his left knee and did not return.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiAndrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News

In the 2013 playoffs, Smith hits Celtics guard Jason Terry (rear, c.) with a wicked elbow for seemingly no reason. The team wasn’t the same after that play.

Smith tried to plead his case afterwards and claimed that his actions were unintentional. The video evidence, however, is the smoking gun. Smith later admitted that he’s “nervous as hell” that he’ll be suspended.

The Cavs will likely play the equally physical Chicago Bulls in the second round and that series will start as early as Saturday or Sunday if the Bulls avoid a Game 7 against Milwaukee. Chicago leads the series 3-1.

Love could get as many as six days to recover from his injury and the hope is that he is available. Smith, though, will likely miss one or two games in the second round. And obviously, the former Sixth Man of the Year with the Knicks hasn’t learned his lesson.

Exactly two years ago to the day, Smith earned a one-game suspension after being ejected in the final minutes of a Game 3 win over the Celtics in Boston for elbowing Jason Terry. It was a needless, dirty play from Smith that resulted in the Knicks losing their next two games and only having one day to rest before their second round series against Indiana.

Smith and the Knicks were never the same after that elbow. Smith played poorly against the Pacers as reports surfaced, fueled by a tweet from his one-time flame Rihanna, that Smith was partying throughout the postseason.

Smith was traded to Cleveland, along with Iman Shumpert, in January and has played well for the Cavs. He even said his party days are over for now and made news a few weeks ago by commenting on the Chris Copeland stabbing incident outside the Chelsea night club 1OAK.

Smith’s advice to his former teammate, Copeland, was to immediately get into a car when you leave a club at 4 a.m.; don’t just stand there inviting trouble.

Of course, Smith invited trouble on Sunday on the fabled parquet floor and will pay for it dearly. LeBron and the rest of the Cavs may as well.

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