OAKLAND — “I can’t say I was sure about anything at that point.”
That, after a couple of days of reflection, is how J.R. Smith described his epic blunder at the end of regulation in Game 1, making a great play to get the offensive rebound with 4.7 seconds left in a tie game, then dribbling out the clock rather than getting a shot up (or passing to LeBron James, or anyone else). Smith admitted he might have told LeBron he thought they were up one, “I’m not sure.”
What he said rings true, he clearly was not aware of time and situation.
Just don’t think that it devastated him.
“I watched golf all day yesterday. Watched The Memorial. Tiger [Woods] played really well,” Smith said of what he did Friday. “Talked to my kids on FaceTime. Just hanging around in the hotel.”
“I think J.R. is one of the most resilient guys I’ve ever been around…” LeBron said. “He probably took that loss as hard as anybody on the team. But one thing about J.R., he has an uncanny ability to bounce back. I think people have seen that throughout our postseason runs, where he hasn’t played well or played to his ability that he thinks he should have played, and then the next game he comes on and shoots the ball extremely well. It’s just very locked in.”
That’s true on the court because Smith has been through much bigger, more important things in his life off the court. Most notably the birth of his daughter Dakota four months prematurely and how she barely clung to life. This is just basketball.
“I told somebody right after the game that I’m glad (the mistake) happened to me as opposed to anybody else on my team,” Smith said. “It’s not a situation that everybody can handle.”
It’s also true because Smith has the backing of his teammates.
“My teammates have been great,” Smith said, later singling out Kyle Korver specifically. “Obviously, everybody says it’s not just the one play that is the reason why we lost. I mean, take it however you want it. But my teammates have been great. They’re very supportive.”
The Cavaliers are going to need more out of Smith than 3-of-10 shooting in Game 2 — against the Warriors the Cavs margin for error is nonexistent, and Smith was one of the role players having a rough night. He knows he has to be better Sunday night or Cleveland will find itself in a deep hole in this series.
“Just play aggressive, like the way I did,” Smith said. “Come out, try to set screens when I can. We try to get the mismatches. But other than that, try to be aggressive. Look for my shot. Keep playing. Try not to gamble as much on the defensive end and stay solid.”