by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media
I was asked about whether or not I was disappointed with how LeBron James acted on the bench just moments after J.R. Smith’s boneheaded play at the end of regulation before going into overtime in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Absolutely not. I’ve been playing basketball since I was six years old. If I was competing for a championship and my teammate had a major lapse in judgement like what we saw with Smith in such a crucial moment of the game, I’d be frustrated too to say the least.
Put yourself in James’ shoes. Here’s a guy who was having one of the best playoff games of his very illustrious NBA career. Most critics had already counted the Cleveland Cavaliers out before the NBA Finals was even underway, and here they were with an opportunity to steal Game 1 on the road in Golden State (the GSW are 10-1 at home in the playoffs this season). That’s not to mention the fact that this Cavaliers team, which only consists of a few legitimate starters, is up against a Warriors team with four All-Stars in the starting lineup and two former All-Stars and two former early first-round draft picks on the bench.
So, if you’re LeBron and the Cavaliers and you taste victory the way that they did in the final minute of Game 1, you better believe there’s going to be some frustration on that bench even with them still having a chance to win the game in overtime. At that point, they were already deflated as a team.
I’m going to take things a step further though. How do we know that James’ frustration on the bench was solely aimed at Smith?
If you watch the YouTube video (above) carefully, you’ll see James find out that the team had one timeout at the end of regulation — something that he should have already been aware of, but that’s a topic for another day. Nonetheless, that’s frustrating as well. In fact, that’s something he addressed in an interview on Tuesday.
“I was sitting on the bench and kind of just contemplating the last couple seconds of what just happened, what expired, from J.R. dribbling the ball out to (George Hill) missing the free throw, actually seeing Draymond (Green) step in early on the lane violation,” James said, per ESPN. “So there were a lot of things playing through my head.”
James also talked about being hesitant to call a timeout at the end of Game 1 because he wasn’t 100 percent sure that the Cavaliers had a timeout left.
“I actually tried to call timeout….I don’t know if I had enough time because I was kind of a little bit still in shock of what was going on at that point in time,” James said. “I got to the bench, first thing that came to my mind I was like, ‘OK, I was calling a timeout.’ But hopefully, I’m glad maybe if we didn’t have any, I’m glad they didn’t give it to me. I didn’t want another C-Webb (Chris Webber) incident. If that happened, then they go to make their free throws and the game is over.”
The moral of the story is that the mainstream media and social media are doing what they do best; being overly critical of what was a very normal emotional reaction to an unfortunate chain of events that costed the Cavaliers a Game 1 victory in front of the Warriors’ home crowd.
Now, with Game 3 set to get underway tonight at 9:00 PM in Cleveland, LeBron and the Cavaliers must approach this game as if it’s a win or go home situation. If not, they can forget about having any chance of winning this series and bringing another championship back to the city of Cleveland.
For those who underestimate the wide gap of individual and collective talent between the Warriors and the Cavaliers, take a look at the list below. There’s a reason why many are saying that this would be one of the biggest upsets in NBA history if the Cavaliers were somehow able to win this series.
The rosters below have been condensed in order to place a focus on the players who are in constant rotation on both teams.
The Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry (7th overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, 2x NBA champion, 2x NBA MVP, 5x NBA All-Star)
Klay Thompson (11th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, 2x NBA champion, 4x NBA All-Star)
Draymond Green (2x NBA champion, 3x NBA All-Star, NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2017, 3x NBA All-Defensive First Team)
Kevin Durant (2nd overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft, NBA champion, NBA Finals MVP, NBA MVP, 9x NBA All-Star, 4x NBA scoring champion)
Andre Iguodala (9th overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft, 2x NBA champion, NBA Finals MVP, NBA All-Star, NBA All-Defensive First Team)
David West (18th overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft, NBA champion, 2x NBA All-Star)
Shaun Livingston (4th overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft, 2x NBA champion)
Nick Young (16th overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft)
LeBron James (1st overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft, 3x NBA champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 4x NBA MVP, 14x NBA All-Star, 5x NBA All-Defensive First Team, NBA scoring champion)
J.R. Smith (18th overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft, NBA champion, NBA Sixth Man of the Year)
Kevin Love (5th overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft, NBA champion, 5x NBA All-Star, NBA rebounding leader)
Tristan Thompson (4th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, NBA champion)
George Hill (26th overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft)
Kyle Korver (51st overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft, NBA All-Star)
Jeff Green (5th overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft)
Larry Nance Jr. (27th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft)