World erupts over ‘tragic’ NBA Finals fault
FOR once it wasn't LeBron James stealing all the headlines for Cleveland.
Instead, it was teammate JR Smith who sparked a meltdown after the Cavs star's unforgivable brain explosion in the final seconds of Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Smith butchered a golden chance to give Cleveland an unexpected 1-0 lead over the Golden State Warriors in the best-of-seven series all because he - inexplicably - didn't know the score.
The lead changed several times in a nerve-racking final minute and Cleveland was in the box seat to claim the win when, down by one point, George Hill was gifted two free throws after he was fouled off the ball by Klay Thompson just outside the paint.
Hill sunk his first one-pointer to level the scores at 107-all but his next effort bounced off the rim.
With a handful of seconds left, Smith grabbed the offensive rebound but instead of driving to the hoop for a last-gasp bucket, he headed in the opposite direction.
It looked like Smith mistakenly believed Cleveland had the lead and thought he only needed to keep possession to win. He could not have been more wrong.
"He thought it was over. He thought we were up one," Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said in his post-match press conference.
Smith's teammates yelled and pointed at him to turn around but by the time he knew what was going on, it was too late. The buzzer went and the match was headed to overtime. James couldn't believe his teammate's unforgivable sin, putting his hands on his head and remonstrating with him.
From there, Golden State ran away with the game to claim a 124-114 win in overtime.
Smith had a different explanation for his actions than what his coach dished up. Apparently he knew the score, but thought Lue was going to call a timeout.
"I was trying to get enough to bring it out to get a shot off," Smith said. "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."
But - along with Lue's comments - replays showed Smith appearing to say to James: "I thought we were ahead."
Even with his explanation, Smith's last-gasp play doesn't make sense, and that makes it difficult to believe him.
When Warriors star Steph Curry was told of Smith's justification, his silence was damning.
“I thought we were ahead.” - JR Smith pic.twitter.com/OjCt4VMCEj— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) 1 June 2018
Golden State enforcer Draymond Green sledged Smith for his unbelievable error.
"Sometimes you need a little luck," Green said. "You've got to know the score. That's basketball. You've got to know if you're winning, losing or it's tied."
Smith's moment of madness was described as "one of the most ridiculous things we've sever seen" by one ESPN commentator. Another called it "inexplicable" and "preposterous".
The American TV network's talking head Stephen A. Smith - with an annoying habit for hyperbole and over-reaction - was actually spot on with his assessment of what he called a "tragic" blunder.
"It's as inexcusable of a mistake as you can possibly make," Smith said. "This moment is officially a crime.
"One of the most brain dead things that I have ever witnessed."