OAKLAND, California — Almost everyone agree that JR Smith made a mistake when he failed to make an attempt off a rebound with the score tied in Game One of the NBA Finals.
Well, everyone but Smith.
The Cavaliers' enigmatic guard was in denial on Thursday (Friday, Manila time), saying he was very much aware of the score when he dribbled back toward halfcourt instead of shooting after securing the rebound off a George Hill free-throw miss with 4.7 seconds left in regulation.
"He thought it was over. He thought we were up one," coach Tyronn Lue said after the Warriors beat the Cavs in overtime, 124-114.
Even the Warriors' Draymond Green figured Smith was simply looking for James, saying, "I would have looked for LeBron, too."
Smith insisted he knew the score was tied.
"I just thought we were going to call a timeout. Because I got the rebound, I'm pretty sure I couldn't shoot it over KD," Smith said of Kevin Durant. "If I thought we were ahead, I would have just held on to the ball so they could foul me. Clearly that wasn't the case."
Durant refused to pass judgment on the controversial Smith play, saying, "I do some dumb stuff on the court, too."
"I don't know what was going through J.R.'s head. He made a great rebound and gave them an opportunity to win the basketball game," added the Warriors star forward.
James was quick to shrug off the incident.
"We've got to move on," James said. "This game is over and done with. We had opportunities. I would never give up on JR. That's not my MO. I don't give up on any of my players, any of my teammates, so I don't think that even needs to be said."
Steph Curry was the least surprised by the play.
"It was a crazy game," Curry said. "... The finals, man, anything is liable to happen."