Things escalated quickly after a flagrant foul could have injured the Celtics’ all-star.

J.R. Smith and Marcus Smart got into a heated shoving match after a seemingly dirty play nearly injured Boston’s big man. Here’s how it went down.

The foul

The Celtics were running away with the game in the fourth quarter and Smart found Al Horford for a lob pass while rolling to the rim. Smith was behind the play and there was nothing he could have done to legally stop Horford from scoring on alley-oop. So he shoved Horford from behind with two hands, sending Boston’s All-Star big man sliding well past the stanchion.

The follow-up

Smith was whistled for a foul, but Smart took exception to the play. You don’t push an airborne player from behind. That’s a dangerous move that could get someone badly injured.

So Smart rolled all up into Smith’s grill in his teammate’s defense. That resulted in a physical altercation that culminated with Smith mushing Smart in his face:

The aftermath

The two emotional guards had to be separated, and upon further review, Smith’s play was upgraded to a flagrant foul one. It could have — and arguably should have — been a flagrant two. That’s a seriously dangerous play, one that wasn’t made on the basketball. The Celtics fans let him hear it with chants of “F*** you, J.R.”

Al Horford’s wife, Anna, also had some choice words via Twitter for J.R. Smith:

Smith admitted it was a bad play on his part

“It was a good call. I blatantly pushed him. It wasn’t like I was trying to low bridge him or something. I just wanted to make sure he didn’t get it.”

Now what?

Well, these two teams have to play at least two more times and probably more so long as the Cavaliers don’t get swept. That means J.R. Smith and Marcus Smart will have many more chances at mushing each other in the face in the next week.

It probably won’t happen. The league doesn’t play with those on-court fights anymore, and this was as close as we’ll see to players throwing hands in the playoffs. But it just adds another wrinkle to a developing playoff rivalry between these two franchises.

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