One play in Game 1 in the NBA Finals will live on for far longer than any series possibly could. J.R. Smith’s gaffe, where he forgot time, score and situation, contributed to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ demise against the Golden State Warriors.
It was an epic blunder, one that will rival the great mistakes in sports history. With 4.7 seconds remaining in regulation and the game tied, George Hill missed a free-throw. Smith caught the rebound and subsequently dribbled out toward center court–apparently forgetting that the game was tied.
The challenge: recovering from this Game 1 loss.
It’s easy for sports fans to pin the blame for the result on one player, but LeBron James, his teammates, and the coaching staff need to pick up their player in an attempt to change the course of the series. In reality, Cleveland needs Smith. A lot.
Yes, he’s a streaky shooter and known for having attention lapses, but he’s one of the few players on the Cavaliers’ roster who can impact the game at both ends. He has to be on the floor for head coach Tyronn Lue.
The Cavaliers’ thin roster does not allow them the luxury to bench Smith, or make an example out of him. They need his three-point shooting, and they need his defensive capabilities. Smith played a large role in limited Warriors forward Kevin Durant to 8-for-22 shooting. Smith, who is significantly shorter, exemplifies toughness and poise on the defensive end, even when matched up with larger players. This allows the Cavs to switch freely, a critical component of their defensive scheme.
If the Cavs have any hope of avenging their Game 1 loss and making this a competitive NBA Finals, Smith will need to be part of the solution.
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