NBA Finals 2018: J.R. Smith's mental mistake late in Game 1 costs Cavs golden opportunity vs. Warriors

The Cleveland Cavaliers had done everything right. With 4.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena, they trailed the Golden State Warriors 107-106 as George Hill went to the free-throw line. Thanks largely to a herculean effort from LeBron James, the Cavaliers had a golden opportunity to steal the series opener. Hill made the first free throw, tying the game, and what happened next will never be forgotten in Cleveland.

Hill missed the second free throw, and guard J.R. Smith grabbed an offensive rebound. Instead of going right up with a shot, he retreated to the perimeter. James screamed at him, initially calling for the ball and then pointing toward Hill. By the time Smith passed it to Hill, there wasn't enough time for Cleveland to get a shot off. 

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Smith was caught on camera telling James he thought the Cavs were ahead. Given the circumstances, this is as brutal a blunder as you could possibly imagine.

The Cavs could not recover, losing 124-114 in overtime despite James finishing with yet another gargantuan stat line: a playoff career-high 51 points (on 19-for-32 shooting), eight assists and eight rebounds. Heading into Game 2, Cleveland can only hope that it's fortunate enough to get another chance like this. 

CBS Sports Writer

James Herbert is somewhat fond of basketball, feature writing and understatements. A former season-ticket holder for the expansion Toronto Raptors, Herbert does not think the NBA was better back in the... Full Bio

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