Kevin Love spared suspension for leaving bench during late-game Cavs-Warriors altercation

OAKLAND, California — J.R. Smith’s blunder, a disputed replay overturn and a key missed free throw dealt the Cleveland Cavaliers an emotionally crushing loss in an opener of the NBA Finals that was ripe to be taken away from the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

The Cavs spent the off day Friday (Saturday, Manila time) trying to recover from one of the oddest and possibly debilitating defeats in the finals, and awaiting word from the NBA on the status of two key big men for Game Two on Sunday night.

Kevin Love will not be suspended for leaving the bench and being on the court during an altercation in the closing seconds of Cleveland’s 124-114 overtime loss Thursday night. A person familiar with the decision said the league ruled Love left the bench to argue a flagrant foul against teammate Tristan Thompson and not to join the altercation. He then retreated to the bench area immediately, so he did not deserve punishment. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league has not announced a ruling.

There has been no ruling yet on possible discipline for Thompson, who was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul against Shaun Livingston and then shoved a ball into Draymond Green’s face before leaving the court.

Cavs guard George Hill said it would be “petty” if it warranted a suspension. The Warriors weren’t concerned about how the league would rule.

“I thought it was unnecessary when he shoved the ball in Draymond’s face,” guard Klay Thompson said. “That was very uncalled for, especially if two guys are just talking. That’s not the way to play. But honestly, I don’t care if he plays or not.”

Everyone is still trying to figure out what went on in the final minute of regulation in Game One. It started after LeBron James converted a three-point play to give Cleveland a 104-102 lead with 50 seconds left.

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James appeared to draw a charge on Durant. But officials went to the replay to see if James was in the restricted area, which would make it a block. While James was clearly outside the restricted area, officials also had the chance to review whether James was in legal guarding position and changed the call to a block because they determined he turned his body and moved into Durant.

Then the game really went off the rails when Hill got fouled with 4.6 seconds left and the Cavs trailing by one. He made the first free throw to tie it, missed the second.

Smith grabbed the offensive rebound, but instead of putting it back up or passing to an open James up top, he dribbled toward half court and threw a pass, running out the clock.

Coach Tyronn Lue said after the game that Smith though the Cavs were ahead, although Smith said he knew the game was tied and was waiting for a timeout to be called. Lue said he talked to Smith about what happened, but wouldn’t give an explanation.

Lue expects a big bounce-back performance in Game 2.

“J.R. can shake off anything, and when everybody tends to count J.R. out, that’s when he comes through,” Lue said. “So he’s definitely going to start again. He’s a big part of what we do. That last play is over, it’s behind us, and now we’ve got to move on.”

Hill said he couldn’t sleep last night, reliving the missed free throw.

“I felt like the team did a great job. Put ourselves in a (position) to win the game. Me not hitting the free throw, I feel like cost our team the win. And I dealt with that last night,” he said. “We’re moving on as a team. We blew our chance, blew our opportunity. But we’ve got to focus on Game 2 now. It being one of the worst losses, got to kind of put it behind you now.”

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The Warriors had some questions of their own in terms of availability for Game 2. Thompson, who briefly left the series opener after Smith slid into his left leg, said he is still sore but feeling much better, and he doesn’t expect any issues for Sunday.

Andre Iguodala remains doubtful as he tries to recover from a bone bruise in his left knee that has sidelined him for the past five games. Coach Steve Kerr said Iguodala is improving each day but still not expected to be healthy enough for Game 2.

Kerr’s bigger concern is figuring out a way to make things tougher on James after he scored 51 points on 19-for-32 shooting in the opener, when he was able to repeatedly drive to the basket.

“I didn’t think we were very good against him last night,” Kerr said. “I thought he was spectacular, but I didn’t think we made it that difficult for him. That’s always the challenge when you play a great player. There is this balance between accepting that he’s going to get his numbers, but making it difficult. I never felt like we got him out of any sort of comfort zone last night.”

 

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