Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith has a knack for putting himself at the center of some unbelievable highlights. Sometimes, that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Smith found himself in that exact situation at the end of regulation in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. It resulted in a highlight that could end up haunting him for a long time.
After an action-packed final minute of the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers had a chance to pull out a win in Game 1 of the finals over the Golden State Warriors.
With Cleveland trailing by one, Klay Thompson fouled George Hill with 4.7 seconds on the clock. Hill nailed his first free throw, tying the game at 107. His next free throw came up a little short.
For a brief second, it looked like Hill’s miss wouldn’t matter. Smith grabbed the rebound just feet away from the basket and … started dribbling the ball in the opposite direction.
Uh … what?
Most viewers assumed Smith thought the Cavaliers were ahead, and dribbled away from the basket to avoid the Warriors fouling him so he could run out the clock.
It looked like Smith eventually took notice of the clock, but passed the ball too late. The clock hit zero, and the game went into overtime.
After the game, Cavs coach Ty Lue claimed Smith believed the Cavaliers had the lead when he grabbed the rebound.
Ty Lue on J.R. Smith: "He thought it was over. He thought we were up 1."
— Michael Pina (@MichaelVPina) June 1, 2018
But Smith said he DID know they were tied. Color us confused:
JR Smith: "I was trying to get enough to bring it out to get a shot off. I knew we were tied, I thought we were going to call timeout. If I thought we were ahead, I'd have held onto the ball and let them foul me."
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) June 1, 2018
Did it wind up hurting the Cavs?
Smith’s mistake hurt the Cavaliers immensely. The Warriors came out firing in overtime, eventually winning the contest 124-114.
How did LeBron react?
He didn’t seem happy in the moment. Cameras caught James looking at Smith and throwing his hands up in the direction of the basket as if to say, “What are you doing?”
It was at this moment that LeBron realized that his time in Cleveland had come to an end pic.twitter.com/X1TKtLMcn8
— Andy (@_ClutchCity13_) June 1, 2018
After the game, LeBron was pressed on whether he thought Smith knew the game was tied and did not enjoy the reporter’s inability to drop it:
LeBron walks off the podium after an exchange with a reporter about JR Smith, tells him to “be better tomorrow” pic.twitter.com/Fq8wezSuFT
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 1, 2018
How did other players around the league react?
With confusion and with jokes, mostly.
— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) June 1, 2018
He’s really tryna take that Shaqtin A fool MVP from me lmao
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) June 1, 2018
Yeah, it might be a while before Smith is able to live this one down.
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