JR Smith on the incident during the 2018 NBA Finals

JR Smith played a significant role in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ four consecutive NBA Finals appearances. Still, his error in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals cost the team a win in a streak that ended in a Golden State Warriors win.

Instead of attempting a putback shot or passing the ball to LeBron James, Smith let time pass, resulting in overtime. In overtime, the Warriors dominated Cleveland and then dominated the rest of the series.

On the Iman Amongst Men podcast, Smith spoke to a former Cavaliers teammate about the play:

“I had KD (Kevin Durant) right here and I had someone on the other side or whatever and the ball was coming down. So when the ball bounced, I thought I had no chance of getting the ball. Honest. So when I got the ball I was like, “Oh shit,” but mind you, KD is still standing right here. So I was like, “I’m not going to take this easy, big asshole.

“Well, I’m going. I’ll dribble it out.”

He didn’t come up against the best defender, but the size would have made the shot difficult. By trickling out the paint, Smith allowed himself to get a better look.

The decision is somewhat logical as Smith is a strong shooter. Still, Smith believes his teammates let him down by the end of the game, much like people say Smith let James down.

“Usually, in any other situation like this for us, what do they do after we get a rebound? Somebody’s going to take a time-out. We’ve got extra possession. Nobody’s going to take a time-out? So I’m supposed to think to get that Rebound and call time out. So I’ve got nobody else out here. It’s just me. I’m playing golf now.”

Since Smith corralled the offensive rebound for Cleveland, someone else could have called a timeout in that situation. A time-out might not have ended with the team getting a better shot, but Smith thought it was the wise decision.

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JR Smith and LeBron James realized Cleveland should have taken some time off

Coach Tyrone Lue could have saved Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals for the Cavs with a timeout.
Coach Tyrone Lue could have saved Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals for the Cavs with a timeout.

Golden State’s win in the 2018 NBA Finals was dominant, but the Cavaliers almost won Game 1. The series could have gone differently if Cleveland had won the opener.

JR Smith knew Cleveland had time out to call in that final rebound, and LeBron James would recognize it, too.

If Cleveland coach Ty Lue calls for a timeout, James and Smith’s legacy could be different.

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Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein