If you think the NBA has gotten soft, well, Sunday’s Game 4 between Cleveland and Boston didn’t do much to support that theory. The Cavaliers won, 101-93, to complete the sweep, but not before a series of chippy plays led to injuries, technical fouls and an ejection.

Among the casualties:

Kevin Love dislocated his left shoulder after getting tangled up with Kelly Olynyk in the first quarter, Jae Crowder and Kendrick Perkins got into a shoving match, and J.R. Smith swung his arm at Crowder while battling for a rebound in the third quarter. Crowder sprained his left knee, while Smith was ejected and could be suspended to start the second round of the playoffs.

“He’s going to be lucky if it’s one game,” NBC Sports ProBasketballTalk managing editor Kurt Helin said CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “To me, the league has a pattern. If you have a history, they tend to get more than one game. If you’re Matt Barnes or Metta World Peace slash Ron Artest slash whatever he is this week, you get more games than the other guys. J.R. Smith has a history. This is not his first major flagrant in the playoffs. I’m guessing it’s going to be two. It could be more. I will add that predicting the NBA’s punishment cycle, I’ve had better luck at roulette tables – and I suck at roulette. The NBA can be really random about this stuff.

“(But this) does really impact (the Cavs),” Helin continued. “The Kevin Love injury and then not having J.R. Smith for at least one – if not more than one – game in this next series against Chicago, that makes . . . that road that much tougher.”

There was physical play throughout the Cleveland/Boston series, as the Celtics tried in vain to get the Cavs off their game and keep things close despite the glaring talent gap between the two franchises. The games were close – Cleveland won the final three games by eight points apiece – but the series was not.

And, in Game 4, Cleveland retaliated.

“Perkins clearly came in and he was the enforcer,” Helin said. “It was an NHL (move). He got his arms up. Crowder’s been physical with LeBron. They’ve been physical as a team with LeBron for a couple of games. That part of it’s normal. That’s where Perkins comes in. To me, I would have tossed him. I think part of the problem simply was the referees at that point, they needed to take control. It’s not a lot of fun when they start blowing their whistles every 10 seconds and really kind of reining the game in. But that’s part of the gig. There’s times – even in the playoffs – you want to them to play, but you got to pick a spot and it got a little out of control. Hopefully Crowder is not going to be injured.”

The Cavs are hoping the same thing about Love, who called Olynyk’s move “bush league.”

“The Love thing, let’s put it this way,” Helin said. “I don’t know that his intent there was to really injure him. He gets his arm and yanks it, but I don’t know that it was a full-on intent to injure as much as just kind of part of the physical nature of the play. That one really does hurt the Cavs going into that next round. That’s a nice front line in Chicago, and you could have used Love.”


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