J.R. Smith kinda, sorta cleared up the issue of what he was or was not thinking at the end of regulation in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Part of the problem, he admits, is that it’s a “gift and a curse” having LeBron James for a teammate, something that Rodney Hood is beginning to understand.
Although he originally said he was thinking of a timeout and looking toward LeBron James after grabbing a rebound of George Hill’s missed free throw with the score tied and a little over four seconds left, Smith copped to what seemed apparent: That he did not know that the score between the Cavs and Warriors was tied.
“After thinking about it a lot the last 24 hours or however many since the game was over, I can’t say I was sure of anything at that point,” Smith said Saturday.
“The Mistake” in Thursday’s game was a shocking lapse and the Cavs never recovered, losing in what James said was “one of the toughest losses” of his career. James was yelling at Smith — with the image becoming a meme — as he continued to dribble and then appeared to say, “I thought we were up.”
Immediately after the game, Smith said he was waiting for someone to call a timeout and that he didn’t shoot because of the estimable presence of Kevin Durant.
“The video where I said I thought we were ahead? I might have said that,” Smith said Saturday. “I’m not sure, but I might have.”
James can’t be surprised, given that he and Smith have known each other for years and were on the Cavs’ team that won the championship two years ago. Still, it isn’t easy living up to James’s standards. And it’s especially awful when a 51-point performance is wasted by a brain-freeze moment.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Smith told reporters. “Not for myself or my teammates, but just playing on his team. It’s almost … it’s a blessing and — it’s a gift and a curse. You play on his team, and you’re playing with the best player in the world and you get to witness some great historic things and be a part of it.
“Then, on the other side, if you don’t help that person win, they’re looking at you, too. So it’s a lot of pressure, depending on how you look at it.”
Hood may have felt pressure at Duke, but being on LeBron’s team cannot compare because of the stuff that goes along with being one of James’s teammates.
“This is something different. It has been tough,” Hood told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears. “The basketball stuff has been the easiest part. The stuff that comes out of it, you lose a game and everyone talks about it on TV the next day. They may say some things that you may not agree with. If you win a game, you’re supposed to. Those kind of things are something I kind of got on a much smaller scale and dealt with at Duke.
“You lose a game and you feel like the world is coming down. You win, it’s like, you’re supposed to win. It’s still a struggle to me to adapt to that. … I was playing at such a high clip when I got traded [from Utah] and then this is my first time having DNPs [did not play] in life. The first time shooting two times or five times in a game. Having to adjust is the toughest part. It’s a part of my growth. I’m not going to always be in this state.”
Smith has an innate coping mechanism: humor. “I tell him [James] all the time he has the opportunity to play with me as well.”
Which means that if anyone can forget Game 1, it’s J.R. Smith. “I told somebody right after the game that I’m glad it happened to me as opposed to anybody else on my team,” he said. “ … It’s not a situation that everybody can handle.”
James, who was playing with blurry vision in one eye after being poked during Game 1, concurs and said he didn’t think he needed to say anything to Smith.
“I think J.R. is one of the most resilient guys I’ve ever been around,” James said Saturday. “He probably took the loss as hard as anybody on the team, but one thing about J.R., he has an uncanny ability to bounce back.”
Seventy-two hours after The Mistake, he’ll get the chance in Game 2 Sunday night.
“J.R. knows what I expect out of him,” James said, “and he expects things out of me and we just try to get it done.”
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