J.R. Smith had a perplexing explanation for his end-of-game blunder that cost the Cavs in Game 1 of the Finals

Maddie Meyer/Getty

  • J.R. Smith appeared to forget the score in the final seconds of Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday and dribbled out the clock with the game tied.
  • Afterward, Smith said he knew the score was tied but was trying to get either a better shot or a timeout.
  • Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said prior to Smith’s comments that Smith thought the Cavs were up by one.

The Cleveland Cavaliers lost Game 1 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors in gut-wrenching fashion.

Two plays will ultimately be remembered in one of the most dramatic Finals games in recent history: the referees’ controversial decision to overturn a foul on Kevin Durant and make it a foul on LeBron James, and J.R. Smith seemingly forgetting the score and running out the final four seconds of regulation with the score tied after an offensive rebound.

After the game, Smith tried to explain his rationale, saying he knew the score was tied at 107, so he dribbled the ball out to either set up a better shot or get a timeout.

“I was trying to get enough to bring it out to get a shot off,” Smith told reporters. “I knew we were tied. I thought we were going to call timeout.”

Smith said if he thought the Cavs were leading the game, he would have held onto the ball and waited for the Warriors to foul him. Smith also said he stopped because he saw James trying to timeout – the refs didn’t see James’ attempts.

However, before Smith’s comments, Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said Smith thought the game was over – that the Cavs had won.

“He thought it was over,” Lue said. “He thought we were up one.”

As ESPN’s Rachel Nichols noted on “SportsCenter,” it’s possible that Lue misunderstood the question or was just giving his own interpretation.

Lue didn’t blame Smith, saying there’s no guarantee the Cavs would have scored on that play to win the game.

After the game, LeBron James was in no mood to discuss the play, repeatedly telling reporters he didn’t know what Smith thought before eventually ending the press conference after another question about the score.

Regardless of what Smith may have thought, the play was obviously not the correct one. The Cavs didn’t get a timeout or a better shot. The game went to overtime where they were outscored by 10.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on “SportsCenter” that much of the anger in the Cavs’ locker room was over the over-turned charging call on Durant, rather than Smith’s gaffe. Nonetheless, the Cavs lost an excellent chance to take a 1-0 series lead on the vastly superior Warriors, only to have it slip away. The combination of events may be tough to overcome in the coming games.

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