NBA Teams
Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer 17d

JR Smith disputes Bradley Beal's claim Cavs tanked to duck Wizards in playoffs

NBA, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards

WASHINGTON -- Hours after John Wall and Bradley Beal said they believed the Wizards are the class of the Eastern Conference and that the Cavaliers wanted no part of their team last spring, Cleveland guard JR Smith responded to their comments with disdain.

"If you look at last year ... I think they didn't want that No. 1 seed for a reason, because we would have played them in the second round," Wall said during an interview with ESPN's The Jump.

Beal made a similar insinuation to CSN Washington in May, after the fourth-seeded Wizards were eliminated by the top-seeded Boston Celtics in seven games, that the Cavs purposely ducked the Wizards in the playoffs by tanking games late in the regular season to avoid the matchup.

"Cleveland didn't want to see us," Beal said in May. "I always said that. I felt like that's the reason they didn't play us in the second round. They didn't want to see us in the second round. If they were going to go down, they were going to go down in the conference finals. They didn't want to go down in the second round."

After Cleveland's 130-122 victory over Washington on Friday, Smith told ESPN that he thought the Wizards guard's claim didn't make sense.

"I just don't understand that we tanked [to miss] them, and they went to seven games against a team that was a No. 1 seed and they lost," Smith told ESPN. "So how did we tank?"

Cleveland went 4-7 in the final 11 games of the 2016-17 regular season and fell to the No. 2 seed in the East. The Cavs swept the No. 3-seeded Toronto Raptors in the second round before beating the Celtics in five games in the conference finals.

"We were playing horrible," Smith told ESPN. "It wasn't like we were just out there [trying to lose]. Everybody was playing. It's not like Bron [LeBron James] didn't play, Ky [Kyrie Irving] didn't play, Kev [Kevin Love] didn't play, like we were resting guys. Everybody was playing. We just had a bad rut like we just did [this season]."

Beal's comments on The Jump on Friday weren't as pointed as they were in May, but he echoed the same confidence in his team.

"I feel like we're the best team. That's just the way I feel," Beal said on The Jump. "I always stand by it because, I mean, why would I sit here and say another team's better than my team? I'm not going to sit here and do that. I've got confidence in myself and my teammates and what we can bring to our team and what we can accomplish."

Added Wall: "We feel like we're their biggest threat. We just got to find a way to get over that hump and beat them and go to the Finals."

James scored an NBA season-high 57 points Friday, helping the Cavs snap a four-game losing streak and beat the Wizards on their home court. Beal admitted he probably stoked James' fire with his comments.

"Probably," Beal said. "But at the end of the day, I still stand on what I say and my teammates. I believe in us, and I'm confident in us, and we're going to compete with the best of them.

"He had an amazing game, but at the same time, we got to respect what he does and what he brings to the game. And hopefully down the line, we'll see him again, hopefully in a seven-game series."

James declined to engage when he was asked about Beals and Wall's comments.

"I don't have a comment about that," James said. "I have so much more on my plate right now."

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue offered a sarcastic response to the comments following the Cavs' win: "They're right: They are the best team in the East."

Smith said the Cavs didn't discuss the Wizards' barbs in the locker room before the game, but they clearly resonated to some degree.

"We know what type of team we are," Smith said. "It's just, that's funny. That's funny."

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