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In fairness to J.R. Smith

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We have that and more in Friday’s NBA newsletter

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Seven Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

With seconds left in regulation and the score tied, George Hill missed a free throw that could have put the Cavaliers ahead and on their way to a shocking Game 1 victory over the Warriors in the NBA Finals. But Hill did not make the shot. Instead, the rebound came to his teammate J.R. Smith near the hoop! How fortuitous.

If only.

Smith, believing that the Cavaliers were ahead, dribbled the ball out toward halfcourt and Cleveland didn’t get a shot off (or a timeout). The Cavs were brutalized in overtime. LeBron’s 51-point game was wasted. Smith, no foreigner to global ridicule, became the latest NBA meme. Bryan Colangelo probably sent some private gratitude for taking a little heat off of him.

However, in fairness to Smith, he doesn’t have a tiny scoreboard overlaid on his view of the action like we do. It’s easy for us to say “oh, you should know the score in those situations” when we can, like, look at the score on the screen or even pause it to check! Smith doesn’t have that luxury, folks. This will continue to happen until augmented reality is fully implemented in basketball. It’s 2018, shouldn’t these guys be wearing Google Glass out there to prevent this kind of gaffe?

In fairness to Smith, he did get an offensive rebound off of a free throw with five seconds left in a tie game. That’s pretty cool!

In fairness to Smith, he did come up with a passable excuse for why he dribbled it out (to get a shot or timeout off) even though we all saw him tell LeBron James in the moment that he thought the Cavs were ahead and heard his coach confirm the same and as such knew his excuse was a terrible lie.

In fairness to Smith, he didn’t exactly lose the game for the Cavaliers: had he not gotten the rebound the Warriors could have won in regulation, there’s no guarantee Cleveland would have scored off the rebound anyway (Smith was in a clogged lane, Cleveland had been struggling to generate points late), and the game still went to overtime. He didn’t exactly lose the game for the Cavs: he just prevented them from having a chance to win in regulation after giving them a chance to win in regulation. Quite literally, Smith giveth and Smith taketh away.

In fairness to Smith, this is J.R. Smith we’re talking about. This kind of result is baked into our understanding of Smith’s value, the Cavaliers’ quality, and the Finals’ odds. Smith is as known a quantity as there is out there. Frankly, it’s on the Cavaliers to make sure Smith knows the score at all times. You’re not setting him up for success if you’re not whispering the score into his ear during every crunch time stoppage.

As The Process Turns

Amid the wild reaction to Game 1, Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe dropped a major update on the Bryan Colangelo Twitter scandal (I’ll never stop loving typing those words). Long story short: the Sixers’ investigation has narrowed in on Colangelo and his family as the source of the egregious tweets in dispute, with Woj naming Colangelo’s wife Barbara Bottini as a suspect.

As such, the Sixers are preparing to dismiss Colangelo as general manager before the critical offseason begins in earnest.

Frankly, if the Sixers are going to do this anyway, they should have just done it during the Game 1 aftermath to take a little heat off. The top national NBA reporters are 3,000 miles away reacting to a series of surreal moments in a surreal Finals game. Bury that news. Alas. Watch for the axe to come down soon.

Links Galore

11 ridiculous moments from the start of the NBA Finals.

LeBron did not, by the way, want to keep answering questions about J.R. Smith. Nor did he want to wear pants to the game.

Paul Flannery on what it’s like to be one of LeBron’s teammates.

Few gave the Cavaliers any shot at winning the Finals. Did Cleveland just give away whatever slim hope they had?

I have THOUGHTS on the LeBron charge/block call reversal that cost the Cavaliers a huge defensive stop late. Those can wait a little while longer. For now, here’s Mike Prada explaining the rule and providing some recent examples of it in action (albeit not in the NBA Finals).

We haven’t even mentioned that Tristan Thompson was ejected for apparently (but not really?) tossing an elbow at Shaun Livingston at the end of overtime, and then got into a brouhaha with Draymond Green as he lingered on the court because Green was taunting him. But you can’t get a tech after you’ve been ejected, so Thompson will get penalized some other way. My bet is that the NBA will downgrade the Flagrant 2 to a technical foul, retroactively assess a tech for the incident with Green, and call it a day.

JaVale McGee was having such a nice little spurt when Steve Kerr had him start the second half. And then he missed a point-blank dunk.

Another argument for NBA players to wear augmented reality eyewear during games: maybe LeBron wouldn’t get poked in the eye so hard a giant blood spot forms.

The Pistons are talking to Dwane Casey. Now that’s a smart match.

Lee Jenkins on LeBron’s Finals legacy.

Are the Washington Mystics a new power in the WNBA?

A big Doris Burke feature out of New Jersey that includes footage of high school Doris playing point.

In appreciation of NBA Finals photography.

On Klay Thompson’s chess obsession.

Tyronn Lue acknowledged that he was treated for anxiety issues when he took a leave of absence during the regular season. Talking about mental health issues is important in destigmatizing mental health issues. Kudos to Lue.

Before Game 1, LeBron was rather circumspect about whether his frayed relationship with Dan Gilbert will affect his free agency decision.

The name of the new Bucks’ arena opening next year is, uh, it’s a 21st-century arena name alright. (Nothing will beat the Smoothie King Center.)

This is pretty funny. Errick McCollum is a basketball star in Turkey. So when fans ask for pictures with him, and his less-famous-in-Turkey little brother C.J. McCollum is around, guess who is asked to take the photos?

Be excellent to each other.