By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — JR Smith picked a really bad time to have a brain cramp.
Then again, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
Smith cost the Cleveland Cavaliers a chance to steal Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Oakland Thursday night. At the end of regulation George Hill clanked his second free throw with the score tied 107-107, but Hill is getting off easy thanks to Smith. The guard pulled down the miss with 4.5 seconds left and, under the assumption his team was ahead, dribbled out the clock instead of going for a quick putback. It caused mass confusion everywhere on the floor, and provided a highlight NBA fans will chuckle at for years to come.
As Smith dribbled, LeBron James tried his best to bring his teammate back to reality, begging him to make a move to the basket or pass the ball or do anything that resembled offensive basketball. But it was too late.
You can clearly see Smith say “I thought we were ahead” to James after the buzzer sounded. Oof. The Cavaliers were a mess after Smith’s gaffe and the Warriors rolled in overtime on their way to a 124-114 win.
Smith said after the loss that he knew the score was tied, and he didn’t want to get blocked down low by Kevin Durant. He believed they were going to call a timeout after he pulled down the rebound.
“No, I knew we were tied,” he told reporters. “It’s just 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 [Kevin Durant] 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 and he looked like he was trying to call a timeout. So I stopped. And then the game was over.”
Cavaliers head coach Ty Lue had a different story during his postgame chat.
“He thought it was over,” said Lue. “He thought we were up one.”
The Warriors didn’t really touch on Smith’s blunder after their win, but Draymond Green had a hilarious reaction when told that Smith claimed he knew the game was tied.
“I guess that further goes along with my theory, I thought he was looking for LeBron,” Green said after making a quizzical face. “I would have looked for LeBron too. I guess.”
And though it looked like he wanted to throw Smith under a bus at the end of regulation, LeBron let his teammate off easy for such a terrible miscue.
“We got to move on. This game is over and done with. We had opportunities. I would never give up on JR,” said James, who scored 51 points in Cleveland’s losing effort. “That’s not my MO. I don’t give up on any of my players, any of my teammates, so I don’t think that even needs to be said.”
James did get a little sick of being asked about Smith toward the end of his press conference, and actually walked away when the questions continued.
“I knew it was a tie game. We were down 1. George Hill went up, he made the first one. We got the offensive rebound, you know, I thought we were all aware of what was going on. That’s my view,” he said. “So I don’t know what JR was thinking. I don’t know the question you’re trying to ask.”
Of course, Smith’s goof had several NBA players abuzz on Twitter.
It wouldn’t be the NBA if there wasn’t some kind of drama. Celtics fans may still be smarting from Sunday’s Game 7 loss to the Cavaliers, but at least Smith gave them a reason to smile on Thursday night.