The Cleveland Cavaliers had many chances to steal Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but some controversial calls, a missed free throw and a poor play off a rebound from J.R. Smith cost Cleveland in a 124-114 overtime loss to Golden State.
LeBron James had a monster game and put his team in position to win.
James scored 51-points to go with eight rebounds and eight assists -- the sixth 50-point game in Finals history -- and drew a key charge on Kevin Durant with 35 seconds left that would’ve left Cleveland in great position, up two points with the ball.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Instead, game officials reviewed the call and changed it to a block. Durant then tied the game with two free throws. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith didn’t think officials shouldn’t have overturned the call.
Cleveland’s George Hill later went to the line with his team down 1 with four seconds left. He made the first free throw and then he missed the second -- a shot that would’ve forced Golden State to score in the final seconds to win.
Next, Cleveland’s J.R. Smith made a play that may one day live in the same type of infamy that Chris Webber’s “timeout” against North Carolina has since 1993.
JR Smith’s bonehead play
Cleveland’s Smith makes $14 million per season and he rebounded George Hill’s free throw miss with four seconds left in a tie game and then, instead of trying to shoot or make a play to win the game, he inexplicably tried to dribble the clock out. Smith thought his team was winning.
The game went to overtime and Cleveland imploded. And the series may’ve ended right there.
“It’s unprofessional. I think it cost them the game,” ESPN commentator and former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups said after the game of Smith’s play. “To win a championship, there’s gotta be lucky plays both ways, and J.R. helped the Warriors out tonight.”
Said ESPN commentator Jalen Rose: “You gotta know time and clock and situation. That cost the Cleveland Cavaliers.”
Social media was just as harsh.
Javale McGee player of the game (for a moment)?
For a little while Thursday, a Warriors player stepped up and changed the game in the third quarter.
Was it Stephen Curry? No.
How about Klay Thompson? Uh-uh.
Surely, then, it was Kevin Durant, right?
Nope, it was Javale McGee. After his team was tied with Cleveland in Game 1 at halftime, McGee's defensive work on LeBron James helped his team spurt away to a third quarter lead.
They just never would've guessed how. McGee stayed in front of James on several possessions in row, energizing his team -- and energizing the crowd.
Of course, McGee being McGee, he also got blocked by the rim later in the quarter, taking some shine off his good play -- and probably landing him on Shaq-tin A Fool, Shaquille O'Neal's laugh-out-loud NBA follies video show.
Are you tired of Cavs-Warriors?
One of the major storylines heading into the 2018 finals was a fourth straight Cavs-Warriors series. Will there be viewer fatigue? The ratings will tell, but a lot of people were surely talking about it.
Of course, Game 1 was a classic, perhaps throwing salt on the theory people are bored with these two teams playing each other.
A few folks made parody videos. Here's our favorite.