The Celtics finished with a 12-7 surge, ignited by Smith losing his composure and committing a unsafe flagrant foul 1 that led to a four-point possession for Celtics All-Star Al Horford at the worst possible time.
J.R. Smith had an ugly performance.
It was the only time Smith was on target.
The Celtics have yet to have their best player on the court in any of their three playoff series, yet are up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals going into Game 3 on Saturday against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
"He's known for it, especially playing against us", Smart said. "That's the amusing part about it, because if Boston beats them, we all know he's gone". Boston built off their strong showing in the conference semifinals as they pummeled Cleveland en route to a 108-83 win in Game 1 to draw first blood in the series.
Smith will not be further punished by the National Basketball Association for his aggressive foul on Horford, who was in the air when he got pushed and could have been seriously hurt. That series saw James score 25 straight points and 29 of 30 in Game 5 to lead Cleveland to a road victory.
While acquiring a franchise point guard is obviously part of Boston's long-term plan as well, Ainge's more immediate concern was about finding a way to beat the Cavaliers this season.
Now, Lue has to ponder another shake-up. The guys also talk about how much this result in the East finals plays into James' decision this upcoming summer and how much value the eighth-overall pick truly has. He almost overcame the rest of his teammates shooting 5-for-20 from the 3-point line. Sit him and risk never getting him back.
No matter how you look at it, the Irving trade was a mess, and it's been made worse by watching players who should have been included in any deal with Boston - Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier - thrive for a Celtics team that is two wins from snapping LeBron James' NBA Finals streak. Smith has been locked in defensively throughout the postseason, so Lue is assuming he'll get it together.
LeBron James took a literal shot to the jaw in Game 2 but kept right on scoring.
Veteran Jose Calderon appears to be out of consideration despite his steadiness and experience. After Cleveland steamrolled the Toronto Raptors in the previous round, 4-0, few people gave Boston a fighting chance in this series.
James was able to carry Cleveland past the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors without much help.
On a night when Marcus Smart did all the typical Marcus Smart things - diving into the crowd to save a loose ball, standing up for a teammate after a hard foul, making a timely steal when his team needed it most - everyone from his teammates to LeBron James gushed about the impact he has when he's on the court.
"I blatantly pushed him", Smith said.
"I thought defensively we were awful", Thompson said. They can chant and scream all they want.
They were a team that tinkered with rotations and lineup combinations, a strategy spurred on by owner Dan Gilbert's text to Lue, giving him the green light to fail in the short term for the betterment of the team this time of year.