BOSTON -- Tuesday's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics finished the same way their playoff series did in April: with the Cavs walking off the Celtics' home floor winners of a physical affair. This time, Cleveland won 89-77, thanks to a dominant second-half performance.
The ghost of series past hung over the game. Kevin Love saw Kelly Olynyk for the first time since Olynyk dislocated Love's shoulder, although they didn't speak, according to Love. And Jae Crowder saw J.R. Smith for the first time since Smith's flagrant foul caused Crowder to sprain his left ACL as he fell to the floor in Cleveland's closeout win to finish the first-round sweep.
While Crowder said in the days leading up to Tuesday's matchup that he hoped Smith would apologize before the game, Smith did nothing of the sort.
"He might want to wait on that," Smith said after scoring seven of his nine points after halftime as Cleveland came back from a six-point deficit at the break. "He can hold his breath, though. I'll give it to him sooner or later."
Why wouldn't Smith just apologize to Crowder beforehand, the same way Olynyk made amends with Love?
"Because it wasn't intentional how they try to make it seem," Smith said. "If you play chippy, chippy things are going to happen. It is what it is. It's pretty ballsy to ask for an apology from another man. I respect it."
For his part, Crowder said after the game that he "didn't expect" any contrition out of Smith.
"It happened months ago," Crowder said. "You live with it, and you go on."
The teams set the tone for the night from the tip, with both sides failing to acknowledge each other with a fist bump or by shaking hands.
"It's whatever," LeBron James said of the cold greeting. "We was out on the floor first, so, whatever the game presents itself we're ready for."
Added Smith: "I really don't try to shake nobody's hands that are on the other team, anyway. I've got a lot of friends I play against all the time, and I still don't shake their hands before a game. After the game it's a different story, but before a game it's strictly business. Nothing personal. I think a lot of people look at it that way, as well."
There were no real dust-ups during the contest, just brief emotional outbursts. In the second quarter, Avery Bradley and Crowder trapped Smith on the sideline, but Bradley was whistled for a foul as Smith tried to escape. Crowder emphatically clapped his hands in front of Smith, but Smith just smiled and didn't further engage.
In the second half, James hit the floor hard, and Olynyk stumbled over him. Olynyk stuck out his hand to help James up, but James instead waited for his teammates to pry him off the ground. He also had some words for Olynyk on his way back up.
"I understand. I'm able to do both," James said when asked about balancing basic execution while also engaging in the extra-curricular feisty play. "I'm able to do stuff that has nothing to do with the game but at the same time focus on what needs to be done. I've been in every situation that this game has presented. So many different matchups, so many different opponents, so I'm able to still know what the real, what the main thing is, and that's just us getting a win."
While there were no overt physical actions by Smith, he did make sure to shoot several looks toward Boston's bench after he made a couple of late jumpers.
"That was just talking trash when I was shooting the ball," Smith said. "It's normal. Pretty much every team does the same thing, and I was giving them the same look. A lot of them probably have watched me since middle school, so I respect that."
The Celtics didn't offer any trash talk after their poor performance. About the closest they came to it was suggesting that their poor offense was more to blame for the loss than anything Cleveland did.
"You could tip your hat to their defense, but for the most part, I feel like we got the shots we usually make," Isaiah Thomas said. "Those were shots we usually get. Individually, myself, I got most of the shots that I usually knock down."
Added Crowder: "They're the top team in our conference, so we have to play better basketball against those guys, but, at the same time, we have to get better at what we do and not worry about what those guys do."
The Celtics and Cavaliers meet again in Cleveland on Feb. 5 and March 5.
"I like it," Smith said. "Wasn't chippy enough."