Up Next

Inside Oracle Arena, the reactions to J.R. Smith’s Game 1 blunder were simply priceless

Smith, Lue, Green, Curry, James and others tried to grasp the odd ending to regulation in the Warriors’ overtime win

OAKLAND, California — Barely a half-hour had passed since the Cleveland Cavaliers fell in head-scratching fashion to the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals. But you could tell that for the Cavs, the loss had already fully sunk in. When the doors to the visiting locker room opened, a silence permeated the team. LeBron James moved without the command he’d had on the court, while team owner Dan Gilbert made small talk as he chomped on a Granny Smith apple.

George Hill sat shirtless at his locker, sandwiched between two teammates while staring into space. Because, in reality, the mayhem of the evening had all begun with him. With 4.7 seconds left in regulation and the Cavs trailing the Warriors by one point, Hill toed the free throw line. After sinking the first free throw to tie the game at 107, he missed the back end of the pair of shots, and the ball was corralled by his teammate J.R. Smith. Yet, instead of passing it out, taking a shot or calling the team’s remaining timeout, Smith dribbled into the backcourt as time ferociously elapsed and it became too late to do anything. The clock expired. The game went into overtime. And the reigning NBA champion Warriors capitalized.

Things got awkward after the game, as players and coaches from both teams went back and forth with reporters, and each other, in an attempt to explain the sequence that turned what looked like a Cavs win into the Warriors stealing Game 1. From inside Oracle Arena, these are the best reactions, and responses, to Smith’s ultimately crucial mental miscue.


Tyronn Lue

What did you say, or what did J.R. say to you, in the locker room about the play at the end of regulation?

Tyronn Lue: He thought it was over.

He thought it was over?

Lue: He thought we were up 1.

J.R. Smith

You knew you were tied? You didn’t think you were leading?

J.R. Smith: No, I knew it was tied. 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.

Stephen Curry and Draymond Green

Draymond, Steve Kerr said the win, in his opinion, because of the J.R. play, was lucky, in his words. He said it a couple times. Do you agree with that assessment that the win was lucky because of that?

Draymond Green: Sometimes you need a little luck. You know, it’s good to be lucky sometimes. So I’ll take it. I think when he got the rebound, he probably could have laid it up. But nonetheless, that’s a part of the game, being locked in. I mean, you gotta know the score. That’s just kind of basketball. You got to know if you’re winning or losing or tied. Like I said, we’ll take it. Sometimes it’s good to be a little lucky. So, hey, Steve, cool. It is what it is.

Steph, is there any doubt in your mind that J.R. Smith, when he got that rebound and did what he did, thought that his team was ahead in the game, and why?

Stephen Curry: You’d have to ask him.

Well, the reason I asked you is because [Smith] was in there saying, ‘I knew it was tied’ …

Curry: I don’t know.

Green: I guess that further goes along with my theory, I thought he was looking for LeBron. I would have looked for LeBron too. I guess.

Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith: [George Hill] missed the free throw. When he misses the free throw, guess what J.R. does? J.R., with the score tied 107-107, forgets that the damn score is tied! Grabs the rebound after not getting boxed out, runs out to the 3-point line, and what does he do? He thinks the game is over. LeBron looks at him like he’s a flaming idiot. He looks at LeBron and says, “I thought we were up.” The next thing we know, overtime arrives. And you knew when overtime arrived, it was going to be the Golden State Warriors’ game. You knew that …

LeBron James

From listening to everybody’s reaction to the play at the end with J.R. getting the rebound, there is still confusion [about] whether J.R. thought the game was tied, or whether he thought you guys were ahead. From where you stood on the court and from talking to him after the play, what’s your reaction to it? What is your version?

LeBron James: What do you mean what’s my version?

Well, did he think the game was tied, or did he think you guys had it salted away?

James: How do I know that?

Did you discuss it at all with him at the end of the play?

James: No. They asked me if I talked to J.R. about it. I said no already. I knew it was a tie game. We were down one. 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. So I don’t know what J.R. was thinking. I don’t know the question you’re trying to ask.

I was just trying to see if you knew exactly what his state of mind was. Did he think that you guys had it won, or did you think he was trying to make a play?

James: No.

Not sure?

James: What do you mean I’m not sure? No, I don’t know his state of mind.

Did you know if he knew the score —

James placed the microphone down and rose from the table in front of him with a roll of his eyes. He gathered his belongings and exited the pressroom. That’s how frustrating the night had become — he had no more answers left to give about the play that left us all wondering.

Aaron Dodson is an associate editor at The Undefeated. Often mistaken for Aaron Dobson, formerly of the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals, he was one letter away from being an NFL wide receiver.