The JR Smith Show Ends Terribly for the Cavaliers in Game 1
The Cleveland Cavaliers had an improbable Game 1 victory in the 2018 NBA Finals within reach…and then thanks to an all-time NBA Finals blunder, it slipped away.
There was an overturned foul call on LeBron James with 36 seconds left. A lazy foul by Kevin Love with even less time left. A missed free-throw by George Hill with 4.7 seconds left, and believe it or not, all of these events didn’t have the final say in a Cavs-Warriors classic.
Enter JR Smith. Far from deserving all the blame, Smith will get the lion’s share. After securing a clutch offensive rebound with the score tied at 107 Smith had a variety of options. Instead of going up for a game-winning layup, passing to the greatest player of all-time (yes, I said it) or even calling a timeout so the Cavs could draw up a play in the final seconds, Smith chose to dribble out the clock until throwing a pass to George Hill as time expired.
Smith has been seen mouthing, “I thought we were ahead,” to a stunned LeBron James as the rest of the Cavaliers walked to the bench in disbelief.
To his credit, JR Smith is an NBA Champion, a deadly-when-hot shot-making guard and even an improving wing defender. There was also a stretch where JR Smith shined in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals. He scored eight straight points coming out of halftime when his team needed him most.
However, on this night he took all the wind out of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ sails on the road at Oracle Arena. There are no words to describe his lack of awareness in the most crucial of moments.
LeBron had scored 49 points in regulation. Kevin Love was up to the task as well with a double-double. The rest of the Cavaliers played far from efficient, but hard enough to earn the victory.
Overtime was a formality. The shell-shocked Cavs allowed the Warriors to score the first nine points in the extra period, and that was the ball game. A 17-7 margin in overtime allowed the Warriors to celebrate the Game 1 victory while the Cavs were frustrated even further. Tristan Thompson was ejected and LeBron pushed Steph Curry and jawed with Klay Thompson.
Years from now, this will be indeed be the “JR Smith” game, but there was much more to Game 1 than that unforgettable play.
Game 1 Notes
LeBron James became the first player in NBA Finals history to score 50 points and come out on the losing end. His heroic effort marked the sixth time the feat had been accomplished. His final stat line was 51 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and five turnovers.
Steph Curry was the star for the Warriors. With 29 points and nine assists, his biggest play was a 30-foot pull-up three as time expired in the first half that was nothing but net and tied the score at 56. He is the front-runner for Finals MVP after Game 1.
Klay Thompson suffered a minor injury in the first half that potentially could have been damaging. JR Smith was going for a steal, but slipped. He landed on Thompson’s knee and bent it awkwardly. Thompson was able to return, and in overtime his six points was a major factor.
Kevin Love returned from a concussion in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals to tally 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Kevin Durant’s abysmal defense and poor shooting will get overlooked thanks to the Warriors win, but the superstar was inefficient in Game 1. Will it be a trend, or did the Warriors dodge a bullet?
The Cavs had a substantial advantage on the glass (+15), while the Warriors took the edge in assists (+13).
Each team committed 18 fouls, but the Warriors shot 95% (19-20) to the Cavaliers 73% (16-22) from the free-throw line. No miss was bigger than George Hill’s with 4.7 left in regulation.