Gill: No Idea What J.R. Smith Was Thinking

Smith's end-of-game blunder may have cost the Cavs the win – and potentially a championship

Taz and the Moose
June 08, 2018 - 6:02 am

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In the final seconds of a tie game in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, J.R. Smith rebounded a missed George Hill free throw. But instead of shooting a potential game-winner – or passing to a wide-open LeBron James and letting him do the honors – Smith dribbled away from the basket. Past the perimeter. Toward half-court. And did nothing.

What. Was. He. Thinking.

“I have no idea what he was thinking,” former NBA player and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst Kendall Gill said on Taz & The Moose. “As an NBA player, even (in grade school), I always knew what the score was when the game was really tight and the game was on the line. I don’t know how you can get that rebound and then dribble a basketball out and not look at the scoreboard before your own teammate takes the free throw. That’s sort of a rule. I always looked at the scoreboard whenever one of my teammates – or before I – shot a free throw.”

Taz wondered if Smith – or someone on the Cavs – should have called timeout.

“I understand his teammates not taking timeout seeing as how the game was tied, and getting a rebound that close to the basket – why take a timeout?” Gill said. “I think LeBron was surprised at what he was doing, so he was probably like, ‘What the hell is this guy doing?’ Then I saw LeBron try to motion for a timeout, but by that time, it was too late. 

“I just don’t understand what was on J.R.’s (mind),” Gill continued. “He’s a veteran, a guy that’s won a championship, a guy that’s been in the trenches – he should know better than that. But maybe he likes to be the butt of jokes because I guarantee you this morning he is the butt of every talk-radio-show joke in the world right now.”

The game went to overtime, where the Warriors outscored the Cavs 17-7 to survive, 124-114.

Smith’s blunder wasted a brilliant effort from James, who finished with 51 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Kevin Love had a solid game as well. He shot just 1-of-8 from three but finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds. 

Smith, who scored 10 points, was the only other Cav in double figures.

“J.R. Smith beat himself yesterday,” Gill said. “If you get that basket, you steal Game 1 – something that nobody thought that the Cleveland Cavaliers would be able to do. I actually had the Golden State Warriors sweeping them, but had they won yesterday, I would have given the Cavs a bit of a chance seeing as how LeBron, to me, is playing the best basketball of his career and everybody else is following suit. But I’m glad my prediction is holding true because now I’m looking like I now what I’m talking about here.”

How the Cavs respond to this loss remains to be seen. Game 2 is Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.

“You got to hope LeBron scores 50 again and you got to hope that you don’t have any mental breakdowns,” Gill said. “Also, you got to hope that Tristan Thompson is not suspended. Hopefully they won’t suspend him, but you got to come back and play the same game. The Cleveland Cavaliers know they can play with the Golden State Warriors. I didn’t think they would be this close. I thought that it would be a blowout, but now they have found out, ‘Hey, we can stay in the game with these guys and potentially win if we don’t have any mental breakdowns.’ You got to go back and play the same game. And most importantly, the Golden State Warriors know now that the Cleveland Cavaliers are not limping in there. They know that they’re a live dog.”