The Cleveland Cavaliers could have won Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors if only J.R. Smith made a different decision. In the final five seconds of the fourth quarter where the game is tied, 107-107, Smith grabbed an offensive rebound from the missed free throw of George Hill. But instead of passing the ball to LeBron James or taking the final shot, the veteran shooting guard dribbled the ball out of the three-point line and waited for the clock to run out, believing they already grabbed the first victory of the series.
Most people were disappointed with J.R. Smith’s action, including LeBron James, as it forced the game to overtime where the Warriors won with a 10-point lead. As James expressed his frustration, Smith was caught telling him, “I thought we were ahead” and looked apologetic for his mistake. However, in a post-game interview, Smith made a different version of the story, saying that he knew the game was tied when he got the rebound.
“It was a tie ballgame and we had a timeout,” Smith said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“I tried to get enough space because, obviously, KD [Kevin Durant] was standing right there. I tried to get enough space to bring it out to maybe get a shot off. And then I looked over at Bron [LeBron James] and he looked like he was trying to call a timeout. So I stopped. And then the game was over.”
According to J.R. Smith, the reason why he didn’t bother to pass the ball to James or take final shot is that he thought they were going to call a timeout. He added that if he knew that the Cavaliers had the lead, he would have just held the ball and let the Warriors foul him. The Cavaliers actually did try to use their final timeout with 2.2 seconds left, but their request wasn’t noticed by the officials.
However, some people aren’t convinced that Smith really knew that the game was tied at that moment. Cavaliers Head Coach Tyronn Lue said after the game that Smith thought the Cavaliers were up by one point. LeBron James, who finished with 51 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, revealed that Smith didn’t even bother to address his teammates about the crucial mistake. James didn’t also try to approach Smith about what happened and told the media that all they need to do is the move on and do a better performance in the upcoming game.