J.R. Smith’s carefree style of basketball is absolutely the best thing about him, but it directly led to this gaffe. What the hell was Smith thinking?
He’s trying to throw an around-the-back pass to Kyrie Irving, but there’s absolutely no reason for him to do that. With the Cleveland Cavaliers up three and time running out, all Smith needed to do was keep dribbling and take the intentional foul, or perhaps toss it to Irving if possible with a safer pass. The only bad outlet would have been a turnover, and he did that. Sure, basketball is instinctual, but that’s a situation where Smith has to think smarter.
He knew, though! Here’s his sheepish reaction.
It didn’t cost Cleveland, because the good look that Paul George subsequently got missed badly and LeBron James clinched the game at the free throw line. But if George had hit that shot and the Indiana Pacers won the game, Smith’s pass could’ve forced Cleveland to play another totally unnecessary game instead of sweeping the first-round series.
Coach Tyronn Lue was asked about Smith’s baffling pass — “I didn’t see it” — and then laughed about it:
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue chuckles at J.R. Smith's ill-advised behind-the-back pass: "I didn't see it." pic.twitter.com/BLCr5MKRtK— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 23, 2017
Still, the stakes could’ve been higher. It’s certainly not the worst behind-the-back turnover we’ve ever seen ...