The Cleveland Cavaliers will be severely weakened for their Eastern Conference semi-finals clash with either the Chicago Bulls or the Milwaukee Bucks with Kevin Love and JR Smith missing.
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The NBA announced on Monday that they had suspended Smith for two games without pay after hitting Jae Crowder in the face during Sunday’s win over the Boston Celtics.
While the Cavs guard was ejected from the game at the time, he hasn’t escaped further punishment and will now miss the first two games of Cleveland’s Eastern Conference semi-finals clash.
Meanwhile, Celtics star Kelly Olynyk was also suspended for one game for the incident which left Love with a dislocated shoulder and that will come into effect for the first game of next season.
However, it won’t change the fact that Love will now miss the entire series against either Chicago or Milwaukee with the injury and it will certainly be a huge loss for coach David Blatt who will have to make the necessary adjustments to his rotation.
The seven-year veteran underwent MRI scans and X-rays on his shoulder on Monday, and the assessment was that he would not be able to feature until after the semi-finals which will begin following the conclusion of the Bulls-Bucks series which is now 3-2 in favour of Chicago.
Cleveland went 3-4 without Love during the regular season, but his absence will be felt more so now after he had averaged 18 points and nine rebounds through his first three playoff games.
Their next opponents will be buoyed by the fact that their rivals will be missing two key pieces for the opening two games of a critical series for both teams and they will look to make the most of it in the opening two road games in Cleveland before Smith at least returns.