Sunday, June 03, 2018

J.R. Smith Overshadows LeBron James in Game 1

For the fourth straight year, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers are meeting in the Finals.  And just like every one of those past meetings, the former enter the series as the favorites to win it all.  In fact, much more so this time around as the Cavs no longer have Kyrie Irving, and this team is really the weakest LeBron James has ever had since 2007.  However, this is also probably the most impressive postseason run LeBron has ever had.  Without any consistently reliable help from teammates, the 33-year-old James, at his fifteenth year in the league, had to perform on an unbelievably godlike level almost every game in order to get out of the East and into his eight straight Finals.

Nevertheless, though he’s the best player in the world, the Warriors are an all-time great team.  Thus, most expected an easy Game 1 win for the Warriors.  However, that wouldn’t be the case.  Though they won, it wasn’t easy at all.  They needed an extra period and a couple of lucky breaks to secure a victory.  How come?  For LeBron James went Ultra Instinct on them.

King James had 51 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists.  Without the injured Andre Iguodala, he couldn’t be slowed down.  He scored at will in a variety of ways – drives, post-ups, free throws, perimeter shots, three-pointers.  He was unstoppable.  He controlled the tempo to his liking.  It was definitely his best Finals game yet (and arguably the best anyone has ever had), and I really thought he would earn the W for the Cavs, in reminisce to how Allen Iverson dominated Game 1 of the 2001 Finals to steal home court from an all-time great Laker team (whose only playoff loss was that Game 1).

Game 1 should have been all about LeBron’s epic performance.  Unfortunately, it would be overshadowed by a hilarious, meme-able J.R. Smith blunder.

Actually, Game 1 had a couple of noteworthy blunders:
  • JaVale McGee missed an easy dunk.  If this was any other game, he would have been the laughingstock afterwards.
  • With 23.5 left in regulation, Kevin Love fouled Stephen Curry as he was going for a layup, but not hard enough to make him miss it.  The layup tied the game, and the bonus free-throw gave the Dubs a one point lead.
  • With 4.7 left in regulation, a scared George Hill went to the line after being fouled by Klay Thompson (amazing quick-thinking by Klay, by the way, as George was free for a layup).  The 80% free-throw shooter made the first one, tying the game, but missed the second one, which would have given them the lead, and most likely, the win.
  • Kevin Durant failed to box out J.R. Smith, which allowed him to get the offensive rebound.

Luckily for those players, the only screwup that history will remember about Game 1 is how J.R. Smith mistakenly thought they were ahead, so instead of taking a shot (or calling a timeout) when he grabbed the offensive rebound, he dribbled it to halfcourt, which would eat up the seconds and send the game to overtime.  And as expected, the Warriors didn’t blow the extra opportunity handed to them.

Now, to err is human.  Furthermore, this kind of mistake is exactly what you could expect from someone like J.R. Smith.   Still, the title is the line.  Focus is imperative.  Plus, he only made it worse for himself afterwards when he lied about knowing the game was tied, when looking at the footage you can clearly read his lips saying he thought they were ahead.

J.R.’s ridiculous, boneheaded gaffe not only cost the Cavs the game, but it ruined what would have been a glorious career highlight for LeBron.  Hence, instead of him looking like a triumphant conqueror, the Game 1 picture of him that will be immortalized is this:

If LeBron, J.R, and the Cavs manage to shake this heartbreaking loss off, and by some miracle win the title, this moment will be reduced to a mere amusing footnote.  But that’s one huge IF.

Till that happens, J.R. Smith has to learn to own up and live with being the (scape)goat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lots of blunders throughout entire game. It's sad Smith is being made the scapegoat. Always a lot of excuses with James and his supporters. What's being missed is that Smith actually made a great play getting the offensive rebound. He secured overtime for his team at the very least. If KD gets the rebound, GS calls timeout immediately, advances the ball, and has at least 4 seconds to get a shot off, which is a lot of time. Overall, Smith did very well, even though he did mess up after getting the rebound.