NEW YORK -- Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt said his team was “moving forward” from Monday’s blowout loss to the Golden State, but there was one particular sequence from the defeat he addressed before turning the page: J.R. Smith being ejected for picking up a flagrant foul 2 just a couple of minutes into the third quarter after running through Harrison Barnes.
“In looking at that play, I’m not sure that if that was someone else that that’s a flagrant foul, in all honesty,” Blatt said before the Cavs played the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday. “But that was not my decision. That was someone else’s decision.”
Blatt spoke to Smith, a 12-year veteran with a spotty history with the referees, about maintaining his composure in the days following the Warriors game.
“It’s great to hear from our coach, because he understands that’s just something I have to take heed of and be conscious of every time I’m on the court,” Smith said.
“Coach and I talk all the time,” Smith continued. “For me to play aggressive, that’s what keeps me on the court. So, sometimes it just doesn’t work in my favor, so I just got to try to be conscious of it, but at the same time, understand there’s a difference between my fouls and everybody else’s.”
Smith found himself in two high-profile flagrant foul situations during the Cavs’ postseason run last spring. In Game 4 of Cleveland’s first round series against Boston, Smith was ejected for striking Jae Crowder in the face, resulting in two-game suspension. Later, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Smith was whistled for a flagrant for ramming into Draymond Green in a similar fashion to his collision with Barnes.
Smith is aware his reputation precedes him, making it a rare occasion when the officials give him the benefit of the doubt with their whistles.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Smith said of the call against him in the Warriors game. “Anytime it’s up for a question whether [a foul is] a flagrant or whatever, I’m going to be on the worst end of it. So, I wasn’t surprised.”
In 797 career games, Smith has been ejected five times and called for nine flagrant fouls.
Smith didn’t just leave the Warriors game early after being ejected. He arrived late, showing up to the pregame locker room about 45 minutes before tipoff. When asked about Smith’s tardiness, Blatt said, “It’s been addressed internally.”
The Cavs' shooting guard could be heard muttering something about the Cleveland snow before the Golden State game. However, he didn’t use the weather as an excuse when asked about his late arrival.
“I mean, there was a lot of stuff that contributed to it, but it doesn’t matter,” Smith said. “I was late. So that’s not really going to help the situation.”
The ejection interrupted a smooth-shooting night for Smith, as he scored 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting in 21 minutes. He has been on an uptick of late, averaging 18 points in his previous eight games coming into Wednesday.
But Golden State spoiled his hot stretch, much like it took it to the Cavs.
“I mean, they came out firing,” Smith said of the Warriors. "They shot the hell out of the ball, and we couldn’t make a shot. So it is what it is."
He then reiterated what he told ESPN.com in November, when he said he wanted a Cavs-Warriors rematch in the Finals this year.
"We’ll have our chance, hopefully, down the road," Smith said. "But I mean, we lost to them twice already this year, so they’re a better team right now."