Thanks to careful planning, I was so well fortified with vodka martinis and white wine last night that I did not suffer unduly when the Warriors almost blew this game. In a just universe, the Cavs probably would have won; they fought and clawed and hung tight for 48 minutes, and were only undone in the end by the technically-correct-but-wow reversal of a foul call and a monumentally boneheaded play by the ever-surprising J.R. Smith.
Fortunately, we live in the real world, where 51 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists from The Minotaur Currently Known as LeBron James are not necessarily enough to earn a victory. A world where a charge call on Kevin Durant with 36 seconds left in the game is reviewed to determine whether LeBron was in the restricted area and ends up being changed to a block, resulting in Durant free throws that tie the game. A world where George Hill has a chance to secure the win by making two free throws, but misses the second, and the rebound is corralled by Smith, who then inexplicably dribbles away from the basket as the clock runs out, sending the game into overtime.1
J.R. Smith has always been, to put it politely, mercurial. Or to put it not politely, a nutjob. His shenanigans over the years have been many; in this case it appears that he literally didn’t know the score, thinking his team was ahead and that running out the clock would ensure victory. On the court afterwards, he appeared to say “I thought we were up”; in a postgame interview he denied this. As The Ringer recounts it,
When the doors to the Cavs locker room finally opened, more reporters than I could count crammed inside the cramped space and surrounded Smith. But while [Tyronn] Lue, [Steve] Kerr, and everyone who watched the game believed that Smith thought the Cavs were ahead, J.R. said he knew the game was tied. He told us that he dribbled out because Kevin Durant was in his way and he wanted “to get space to bring it out and maybe get a shot off.” Then — and this was the truly ridiculous part on a night full of ridiculous moments — he kinda threw LeBron under the bus.