The Cleveland Cavaliers had a golden opportunity in game one to shut up all the doubters who had them being swept by the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals. A brain lapse by J.R. Smith changed that.
With four seconds left in regulation, George Hill missed the second of two free throws in a tie game at 107. Smith would get the rebound and dribble back toward center court. Smith would be forced to pass the basketball to Hill in front of the Warriors bench to attempt a desperation game winning shot witch was blocked.
The Cavaliers had one timeout remaining. The game went to overtime where the Warriors took advantage on the break that was handed to them. During overtime on the ABC national broadcast of the game, a replay showed Smith telling LeBron James that he thought the Cavaliers had the lead.
Hill split the free throws after he was fouled via a hold by Shaun Livingston with Golden State up 107-106. The Warriors would outscore Cleveland 17-7 in overtime and take game one 124-114.
The mental lapse by Smith, along with a late game ejection of Tristan Thompson overshadowed a NBA Finals record setting performance for James. LeBron scored a career best 51 points in an NBA Finals game. James put up the performance despite dealing with a scratched eye suffered in the first quarter courtesy of Draymond Green poking him in the face.
The late game mistake by Smith wasn't his only bad moment in game one. At the end of the first half, Smith tried to steal a pass intended for Stephen Curry. Smith missed and Curry would beat the halftime buzzer by connecting on a 3-pointer from about 35 feet away from the basket. It tied the game at 56 and helped give the Warriors some much needed momentum after the Cavaliers built a double digit lead in the second quarter.
Curry lead the Warriors with 29 points. Kevin Durant scored 26 points. Klay Thompson scored 24 points despite injuring his leg in the first quarter when Smith slipped into him.
Kevin Love returned from the concussion protocol and had a solid game with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Smith was the only other Cavalier to score in double figures. He finished with 10.
Game 2 is June 3 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, 5 p.m. Pacific from Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.