June 1, 2018, 12:54 am
J.R. Smith had the chance of a lifetime. He squandered it with a gaffe that could haunt he and the Cleveland Cavaliers forever.
The Golden State Warriors beat the Cavaliers 124-114 in overtime on Thursday night, withstanding an all-time performance by LeBron James to take a 1-0 lead in the NBA Finals. It wasn’t easy for the defending champions in Game 1, though. They needed help to avoid losing home-court advantage, and got it at the perfect time, under circumstances that will live in basketball infamy for decades to come.
With just over four seconds left in the fourth quarter of a game Golden State led 107-106, James found George Hill cutting to the rim unencumbered with a one-handed bullet pass. Rather than cede an easy two, Klay Thompson grabbed Hill as the ball came his way, sending the Cavaliers point guard to the free throw line. After swishing the first of two freebies, knotting the score, Hill came up short on his second attempt. The ball caromed right over Kevin Durant and into the hands of Smith, who could have put it right back up from six feet, passed to an open James at the top of the key or called the Cavaliers’ last remaining timeout.
Instead, the notoriously eccentric veteran frantically dribbled toward halfcourt, content to hold the ball until James alerted him of reality. “I thought we were ahead,” cameras caught Smith telling his Hall-of-Fame teammate after the buzzer sounded, sending their underdog team to overtime against a juggernaut, on its home floor in the opener of the NBA Finals.
The play that decided Game 1. pic.twitter.com/e1UeOv57Rn
— ESPN (@espn) June 1, 2018
No one possession wins or loses a game. The Warriors deserve this victory every bit as much as the Cavaliers. Curry had 29 points, six rebounds and nine assists. He shot 5-of-11 from beyond the arc, including a 35-footer that tied the score as the second-quarter clock expired. Kevin Durant struggled to find hit jumper at times, but still finished with 26 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three blocks. Klay Thompson scored 24 points on 16 shots, and Draymond Green stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, five steals and two blocks. Golden State got several solid contributions from its role players, too, most notably Shaun Livingston and Kevon Looney, the former of whom was perfect from the field en route to 10 points off the bench.
Still, several game-changing trips down the court in crunch time make it hard to believe that Cleveland, if just one more play went its way, wouldn’t have left Oracle Arena with perhaps the most surprising victory of the 2017-18 season. Smith’s blunder will never be forgotten, but the Cavaliers might not have been in that situation altogether if the officials had given them a more favorable whistle.
While driving on Curry with 5:53 left in regulation, James was supposedly stripped clean by Looney; replays later showed contact on the arm as the Warriors big man swiped at the ball. Five minutes and 17 seconds later, James stepped in front of Durant at the rim after he blew by Kevin Love on the perimeter, yielding a 50-50 call initially whistled as a charge. Following a lengthy review, however, a blocking foul was assessed to James, and Durant tied the game at the line with 36.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Then, on the first possession of overtime, Durant was awarded two more free throws after a clean swipe down by George Hill, confirmed by television replay, was again ruled in favor of the reigning Finals MVP.
There were multiple times down the stretch when the Warriors could have been called for a foul on shot attempts by James, too. Not that anyone could fault them for playing him extra aggressively; Golden State had no other answer. James scored 51 points, the fifth-most in Finals history, dished eight assists and grabbed eight rebounds. He made 11 of his first 13 shots, initially pushing his team to an early lead and later stemming the tide of the Warriors’ seemingly inevitable third-quarter onslaught. After the Cavaliers fell behind by six entering the final stanza, James brought them all the way back to multiple leads in its final minutes with 13 points, three rebounds and three assists.
He was everything Cleveland needed him to be and more in Game 1. It’s not a stretch to say James was better than he’s ever been in the Finals, a ledger that now spans nine trips, 11 years, four head coaches and two teams. Still, it wasn’t enough to beat the Warriors.
— NBA (@NBA) June 1, 2018
Golden State will be better going forward, but optimists have ample reason to believe the Cavaliers will be, too. Kevin Love had 21 points and 13 rebounds in his first game back from a concussion, but missed several makable looks from the opening tip to overtime. Hill scored just seven points, four more than Kyle Korver. While Jordan Clarkson can’t be counted on, he can certainly shoot better than 2-for-9 – or perhaps not take that many shots at all.
And Smith, of course, could simply realize circumstances of time and score in the biggest game of the season. But he didn’t, and Cleveland falls behind 1-0 in the Finals as a result. Here’s hoping James and the Cavaliers play well enough to put themselves in a similar situation at some point over the next three games, replicating the drama of Thursday night – which was heightened by a flare-up between Tristan Thompson and Green in the latter stages of overtime.
Yet zooming out, it’s hard to believe Cleveland will get an opportunity again in this series like the one Smith so blatantly botched. Oracle Arena might be basketball’s biggest home-court advantage, and its occupants are heavy favorites for reasons too long to list. Even worse? The Cavaliers have to win in Oakland to beat the Warriors, and just lost a game in which James, a one-man band, put on a show for the ages.
August 25, 2019, 8:29 pmVictor OladipoSG, Indiana Pacers
Victor Oladipo had little to say about his rehab process (ruptured quad tendon) at his basketball camp in Indiana.
We weren't expecting earth shattering details while Oladipo was busy overseeing his basketball camp, but more information about the Pacer would be most welcome. It is hard to know what you will get from Oladipo on draft day, but you have to figure someone in your league will be interested in taking a gamble on him. He is still not scrimmaging with other players, and whenever he does return to game action this season, it is unlikely he will resume being a top player in the early going.
Source: The Athletic
August 25, 2019, 8:08 pmBriante WeberPG, International
Briante Weber, after spending the end of last season with the Greek club Olympiacos, is joining the Metropolitians 92, based in Boulogne-Levallois, France.
Weber attended free agent mini-camps in June with the Raptors and Wolves, and spent time in the G-League last year, but has never been able to catch on long-term with an NBA team. He has had brief stops with several NBA squads over the years, so it is possible he could return to a roster at some point this season. There is nothing to see here in terms of fantasy though.
August 25, 2019, 7:54 pmRui HachimuraPF, Washington Wizards
Rui Hachimura showed off his scoring prowess with 31 points in Japan's comeback victory over Germany on Saturday.
After a nice string of Summer League performances, Rui Hachimura is continuing his strong play in FIBA World Cup exhibition games for Japan. He can clearly get his own look in the mid-range, and the rookie should get a chance to perform for the Wizards this year. Keep an eye on Hachimura's preseason opportunities, as the competition for the Wizards' power forward minutes isn't fierce. He could be worth a late-round flyer in standard league-drafts.
Source: Mike Schmitz on Twitter
August 25, 2019, 6:50 pmRobert CovingtonSF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Robert Covington (right knee) is not expected to have any limitations heading into training camp.
Covington had arthroscopic surgery in April after missing 47 games last season due to a bone bruise on his right knee.
Source: Chris Hine of the Star Tribune
August 25, 2019, 6:32 pmJeff TeaguePG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Jeff Teague (left ankle) is not expected to have any restrictions for training camp.
Teague had a left ankle debridement procedure in April to help alleviate inflammation. Teague's ankles have given him trouble throughout his career and he only played 42 games last season. With a clean bill of health Teague will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing season.
Source: Chris Hine of the Star Tribune
August 24, 2019, 11:09 pmDerrick WhitePG, San Antonio Spurs
Derrick White has reportedly passed the first concussion test after taking a nasty fall in Team USA's tuneup game vs. the Australian Boomers on Saturday.
This is good news. White has worked hard for his Team USA roster spot and should provide some guard depth for them once he clears concussion protocols. He was an eye-opener last season and should still hold some fantasy value despite the return of a now-healthy Dejounte Murray.
Source: Tom Orsborn on Twitter
August 24, 2019, 10:27 amKyle KuzmaPF, Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Kuzma (sore left ankle) will not take part in the FIBA World Cup as Team USA announces its final roster.
Kuzma sat out Team USA's final tuneup against Australia on Saturday as Marc Stein reports that he is flying back to Los Angeles to get treatment. We should still expect him to be ready for training and congrats to Mason Plumlee for making the team as many speculated that he would be the final cut.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
August 24, 2019, 8:58 amKemba WalkerPG, Boston Celtics
Kemba Walker scored 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting with four rebounds with two assists as USA Basketball had it's 78-game winning streak in tournament and exhibition games snapped on Saturday.
Walker continues to assert himself as the team's best player but USA losing to Australia was the much bigger story in this one. Harrison Barnes also played well as he chipped in 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with six rebounds. USA will take on Canada on Monday in their last exhibition before taking on the Czech Republic in the first official match of the tournament on September 1.
August 24, 2019, 8:44 amDerrick WhitePG, San Antonio Spurs
Derrick White left Saturday’s game after tripping and hitting his head on the floor.
White left without help but there is no word yet on whether he is dealing with a concussion. He finished with eight points, hitting 6-of-7 three throws in nine minutes with another update sure to come. The third-year guard put up top-125 per-game value, playing 25.8 minutes in his second season. Even with the return of Dejounte Murray, White should still be worth a roster spot in most standard leagues.
Source: Jeff Garcia on Twitter
August 24, 2019, 8:42 amMarcus SmartPG, Boston Celtics
Marcus Smart, sidelined for almost three weeks with calf tightness, returned to action on Saturday as USA lost to Australia in their exhibition.
Smart only played nine minutes in this one but still managed to score 7 points with three assists days after being named one of the team’s co-captains. Coming off an NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, he produced top-100 per game fantasy value as it seems he may have finally fixed his shot after shooting under 40 percent from the field in his first four seasons. He also produced a career-high in both steals and triples with 1.8 and 1.6 respectively as his career seems to be on the up and up.