According to J.R. Smith, he knew the score of Game 1 when he dribbled away the clock after grabbing an offensive rebound near the end of regulation.
“If I thought we were ahead, I would have just held on to the ball and let them foul me,” Smith said.
““I tried to bring it out and get enough space to maybe get a shot off. I looked over at LeBron [James] and he looked like he was trying to get a timeout. So I stopped, and the game was over. I thought we were going to take a timeout because I got the rebound. I’m pretty sure everybody didn’t think I was going to shoot it over KD right there.”
Smith made his game-altering mistake with 4.7 seconds left in regulation. After George HIll missed what would have been a go-ahead free throw, Smith got the rebound and dribbled away from the hoop. By the same he seemed to realized what had happened, and passed it to Hill on the wing, it was too late. Cleveland would go on to lose by 10 points in overtime.
A replay of the play appears to show Smith telling LeBron James “I thought we were up” as James yelled at him:
During his postgame press conference, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said that Smith was unaware that the Cavs were actually tied with the Warriors, although cleveland.com reports that he said afterwards that Lue had not yet talked to Smith about the incident.
“I mean, who knows if JR would have made the layup anyway, so it was tough,” Lue said. “You know, he had a little -- he could have had a little floor, somebody was there. Then you think about calling the time out. But LeBron was open for a second, and it just happened too fast.”
Regardless of what actually happened, this is one of the plays that cost the Cavs Game 1 and a 1-0 series lead. And regardless of the reason why Smith dribbled away, the 3.5 seconds he took off the clock before trying to pass the Hill cost Cleveland a final look at the rim.
“I thought we were all aware of what was going on,” James said. “That’s my view. So I don’t know what JR was thinking.”