Reversed foul call against LeBron James draws Cavaliers' ire
Fri., June 1, 2018
OAKLAND, CALIF. â" As one shell-shocked member of the Cleveland Cavaliers after another emerged from the visitorâs locker room here inside Oracle Arena after Game 1 of the NBA Finals, it was clear they each understood the opportunity they had collectively let slip through their fingers.
From George Hill missing a free throw to J.R. Smith not knowing the score to the officials either missing or screwing up â" in the eyes of the Cavaliers, anyway â" a series of crucial calls late in regulation, Cleveland walked out of the building Thursday night thinking it had done everything it needed to do in order to start off this series, which Cleveland entered as a huge underdog, with a win.
Instead, it was the Golden State Warriors that emerged with a 124-114 overtime victory â" one that even the Warriors admitted they were fortunate to have.
âWe got lucky,â said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who said that three separate times in the answer to the first question of his postgame news conference.
âSometimes, you need a little luck,â Draymond Green said. âYou know, itâs good to be lucky sometimes.Article Continued Below
âIâll take it.â
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The Cavaliers, though, couldnât have felt more unlucky. Weâll start with Smithâs monumental blunder, which came after Hill missed a free throw with 4.7 seconds left in regulation and the score tied at 107. After fighting to get the offensive rebound, Smith had a chance to put the ball back up for a potential game-winning shot.
But rather than shoot the ball, Smith started dribbling . . . and dribbling . . . and dribbling, going out of the paint, then out past the 3-point line, then all the way out nearly to halfcourt, before firing the ball back to Hill, who had run to the corner , as time expired.Article Continued Below
The reaction of LeBron James, who stood at halfcourt screaming at Smith and pointing at the basket while Smith held his arms out in confusion, said it all.
The only conclusion had to be that Smith lost track of the score, and thought Cleveland was ahead â" which, it turned out, was what happened.
âHe thought it was over,â Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. âHe thought we were up one.â
Or, did he?
The way Smith tells it, he thought someone was going to call timeout, and that the game was tied.
âNo, I knew it was tied,â he said. âI thought we were going to take a timeout, because I got the rebound.
âIâm pretty sure everybody didnât think I was going to shoot it over [Durant] right there.â
When pressed on this, Smith replied, âIf I thought we were ahead, I would have just held onto the ball, and let them foul me.â
Letâs just say few, if any, people in attendance af ter the game were actually buying that explanation.
Still, the Cavaliers were not angry at Smith after the game, or blaming him for the loss. Instead, they pointed to a series of calls they felt went against them late in the game â" most notably a block/charge call with 36.4 seconds left.
After a James and-one layup, plus the free throw, had completed a 10-2 Cleveland run and given the Cavaliers a 104-102 lead with 50.2 seconds left, he stepped in front of a Durant drive at the other end that, initially, was ruled a charge â" giving the ball back to the Cavaliers, who held a two-point lead.
And, with the way James â" who finished with an astonishing 51 points, eight rebounds and eight assists â" was playing, Cleveland would have felt quite confident it could get another basket from him to extend the lead to two possessions, and all but put away the game.
Only officials called for a review of the play, saying it was necessary in order to see if James was i n the restricted area. But because they called for that review, it then allowed the referees the opportunity to not only see if James was within the semicircle under the basket, but also to potentially change the call from a charge to a block.
And, with James clearly moving on the play, it was changed to a block. Now, instead of Cleveland getting the ball up two, Durant got two free throws. Once he made both, the game was tied at 104.
The issue from Clevelandâs perspective is James was quite clearly outside of the charge circle on the play. That left them, and just about every neutral person watching, wondering whether the referees took the opportunity to review whether James was in the restricted area as an excuse to see if they correctly called a charge.
âI mean, they called a charge, right?â Lue said. âAnd LeBron was clearly four feet outside the restricted area . . . the review is if heâs on the line, or if heâs close to the charge circle. Thatâs the review. He wasnât close.
âSo what are we reviewing? Either call a blocking foul, or call an offensive foul.
âIt ainât right. It ainât right.â
James, when asked for his own opinion on the play, didnât mince words either.
âI read that play just as well as Iâve read any play in my career,â James said. âMaybe in my life.
âI seen the play happening. I knew I was outside the charge line, and I knew I took the hit.
âI donât know what else to say.â
Not mentioned here is that, after the block/charge kerfuffle, James then drove back down to the other end and clearly was hit on a layup that he scored â" only a foul was not called. Then, at the other end, Stephen Curry got a foul on his own drive that he converted. And, after hitting the free throw, set up the final sequence in regulation.
All of this left Cleveland bitterly disappointed at how this game played out. Even in his frustration following the game, Lue barely raised his voice. James, meanwhile, had a thousand-yard stare for most of his news conference, and even walked out early after getting into a prolonged back-and-forth with a reporter about Smithâs state of mind on that final play.
The Cavaliers knew this one got away, and that was frustrating enough. But feeling like it was taken away from them by those calls â" Smithâs blunder aside â" only made it worse.
âBecause itâs right now, I would say yes,â James said, when asked after the game if this was the most frustrated heâs ever been after a Finals loss. âI always live in the present. I donât know how frustrated I was after a loss in the past. Tonight, we played as well as weâve played all postseason, and we gave ourselves a chance possession after possession after possession.
âThere were just some plays that were kind of taken away from us. Simple as that.âRead more about: SPORTS ACTION AND RE-ACTION DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX.NEW NEWSLETTERSPORTSSIGN UPSource: Google News