Warriors-Cavs: ‘Robbery,’ replay and brilliance by LeBron
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Art Spander in Cavaliers, LeBron James, Warriors, articles, basketball

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — J.R. Smith had the ball but didn’t know what to do with it. The officials had the call and, according to the Cavaliers, did too much with it.

Oh, those NBA finals, a place where individual brilliance (the virtually unstoppable LeBron James had 51), collective disappointment (“To come up robbed, it’s just not right,” sighed Cavs coach Tyronn Lue) and an extended conclusion (those final seconds seemed to last forever) merged to create a game that, depending on one’s viewpoint, either was memorable or forgettable.

For sure, it was exciting.

The Warriors won, 124-114, but since it was in overtime, and with Cleveland in control most of the game, the scenario defied that of forecasters who had Golden State easily winning both this opener of the best-of-seven matchup and the title.

In summary, it was a bit of lunacy ensnared in a lot of confusion.

“The finals, man,” said the Warriors' Steph Curry. “Anything is liable to happen.”

Especially when it’s the same two teams for a fourth straight year; especially when, as underdogs, they both won their conference championships in seven games, the seventh one on the road — only a few days before the Thursday night start of the Finals.

You could say the game had everything: athleticism, harsh words, a key instant replay with 36 seconds left in regulation and not least that perplexing move — or non-move — by Smith when he grabbed a rebound with 4.5 seconds to play.

George Hill had hit a free throw to tie the game, 107-107. He missed the second, however, and when Smith grabbed the offensive rebound — all game, Cleveland dominated the boards with 53 rebounds to 38 for the Dubs — Smith dribbled toward halfcourt instead of shooting.

It was an awful miscalculation. “He thought it was over,” said Lue. “He thought we were one up.”

Instead they were on their way to overtime, where they would be outscored 17-7, James unable to get more than two free throws in the period.

“I knew it was tied,” Smith insisted. “I thought were going to take a timeout because I got the rebound. I’m pretty sure everybody didn’t think I was going to shoot over KD (Kevin Durant) right there. I tried to get out and get enough space. I looked over at LeBron, and he looked like he was trying to get a timeout.”

Minutes after play ended, what James was trying to do was get away from the media’s questions, which finally he did by cutting off the interview and walking away.

He perhaps was still irritated by the officials’ decision late in regulation when he planted himself inside near the Cleveland basket and — he thought — was run into by Durant. But replays did appear to show James had moved his feet as Durant approached. The call originally was charging, which would have given Cleveland the ball. Then it became a defensive foul.

“I thought I read that play just as well as any in my career, defensively,” said LeBron. “I saw the drive. I was outside the charge line. I stepped in and took the contact. It’s a huge play.”

The Warriors' inevitable threesome all were in the 20s: Curry with 29 points, Durant 26 and Klay Thompson 24. Despite going out for a while in the first half after a collision. Draymond Green had 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Told that his coach, Steve Kerr, said the J.R. Smith bungle was lucky for the Warriors, Draymond said, “Sometimes you need a little bit of luck. So I’ll take it. I think when (Smith) got the rebound he probably could have laid it in. But nonetheless that’s part of the game. You got to know if you’re winning or losing or tied.”

Which Smith claimed he did know. He simply didn’t turn the knowledge into points. Or attempted points.

“Who knows if J.R. would have made the layup anyway?” said Lue. “We had a chance to win. We had to regroup. But they came out and played well in overtime.”

And won the game — the hard, lucky way.

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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