J.R. Smith was the goat of Game 1 and it may prevent LeBron James from ever being seen as the G.O.A.T. We all saw what happened. The Cavaliers guard snatched up George Hill’s errant free-throw attempt with 4.7 seconds remaining and proceeded to dribble out the clock because he thought Cleveland was leading. In reality, the score was tied.
That’s what everyone, including his coach Ty Lue, is saying. The only person with a different explanation for what happened is Smith. And folks, perhaps it’s time I seek help, because I find it somewhat credible.
That makes sense. A rational, level-headed player would have allowed the Warriors to foul him so he could go to the line and stretch the advantage to three points. Cleveland could then intentionally foul to prevent a game-tying attempt.
Of course, Smith doesn’t really fit the above description. But if you watch the replay like the Zapruder film, it’s possible to come away with a different impression than the prevailing one. Smith’s actions — racing to the hashmark and looking toward James — suggest, to me at least, that he planned to set up a top-of-the-key three for the win. At the very moment he did this, he lost his handle on the ball enough to throw everything off.
He then opted not to pass as a streaking Klay Thompson came into the picture. I know, I know, you think I’m incredibly naive. So let me say this: I do think Smith forgot a crucial element of the time/score equation. The time.
I believe it was a matter of terrible clock management and thinking he had more seconds to burn, not a matter of not knowing the official tally. Smith would be loathe to admit that mistake as well. He might, you know, stick to the part that’s true (that he knew the score) and fail to disclose his inner clock got messed up.
It’s just a theory but it’s my theory. If true, it makes Smith look bad, but not nearly as bad as he looks now. Something to consider.