NBA Finals: Stephen Curry puts on a show; Cavaliers look deflated in Game 2 loss to Warriors

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors celebrates with Draymond Green during the fourth quarter of Game 2. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Coach Tyronn Lue insisted the Cleveland was not a broken team after squandering a great opportunity to steal Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Lue said the Cavaliers were ready for Sunday’s Game 2 in Oakland.

Lue’s team did not back him up.

Game 2 was more like what most expected from this series. The Cavaliers fell behind early and never led. Now they limp back to Cleveland for Game 3 on Wednesday down 0-2.

“I didn’t think we started the game like we needed to start,” Lue said as Golden State made its first seven field goal attempts. “Not being physical enough. We can’t start the game like that. … We have to start the game better, being more physical, bringing the physicality. We didn’t do that tonight to start.”

The Cavaliers can say what they want but Thursday’s loss was deflating and took something out of the underdogs. Cleveland was flat on both ends of the court for most of the first half and after cutting into the lead in the third quarter, quickly ran out of gas in the fourth quarter as Golden State stretched the lead to 23 before setting fo a 122-103 victory.

Cleveland reverted back to the shaky defensive team was saw all season, allowing the Warriors to shoot 57.3 percent from the field and LeBron James wasn’t anything close to matching his extraordinary Game 1 effort. And unless James plays out of this world, the Cavaliers have no chance.

James once again filled the stat sheet with 29 points, 9 rebounds and 13 assists, but his impact was nothing like Game 1 when he dropped 51. And James looked fatigued at times playing all but the final 4:09. He now has played 185:29 of a possible 197 minutes in the last four games. When LeBron is tired it shows more on the defensive end and in his effort getting back on defense. And he spent more time whining about non-calls than usual.

“It sucks to lose,” said James, who insists he got tired once during the game. “It sucks when you go out there and give everything you have – your mind’s into it, your body’s into it and you come out on the losing end.”

Cleveland forward LeBron James sits on the bench during the second half of the Cavaliers’ Game 2 Finals loss to the Warriors. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Stephen Curry highlight film: The first one came with 7:54 to play in the game. With the shot clock running down Curry briefly lost his dribble, picked up the ball and threw up a high-arcing shot from about 30 feet over Kevin Love that cleaning went through to push the Warriors lead to 14. About two minutes later, Curry raced to the corner and launched another 3-pointer, again over Love. The only difference this time was he landed on his back as he was fouled by Love and the shot turned into a four-point play.

“A big moment where we had a significant lead and we could extend it a little bit and create some separation down the stretch,” Curry said about the three that beat shot clock. “It was a cool moment for sure.”

The two 3-pointers were part of Curry’s Finals record of nine (in 17 attempts). He finished with 33 points and placed himself as the leading contender for Finals MVP. And that is saying a lot when for the second straight game the Warriors’ Big Three all topped 20 points with Kevin Duran scoring 26 (on 10-of-14 shooting) and Klay Thompson adding 20 (8 of 13).

    Warriors fans taunt JR Smith: Cleveland’s JR Smith wasn’t going to forget about one of the biggest blunders in Finals history in Game 1, a play that dominated the conversation during the two-day break between games. Smith’s meltdown in the final seconds of regulation – he dribbled out the final 4.7 seconds with the score tied – gave the Warriors life, who took advantage and dominated the overtime.

Warriors fans first showed Smith how much they appreciated his contributing to their team’s win by loudly cheering him during pregame introductions. Then, with Smith at the foul line, he heard chants of “MVP, MVP.” One fan brought a sign saying Smith was “DA REAL MVP.”

And how did Smith respond? He finished with five points on 2-of-9 shooting but wasn’t about to admit the taunts got under his skin. Then again, this is a man who wanted everybody to believe that he knew the score at the end of Game 1 and was dribbling the ball to halfcourt looking for a better shot.

“I’m always a person who the fans like to talk to or heckle,” Smith said. “I like it. I’d rather they do that than not acknowledge me at all. I appreciate it.”

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One local product had his JR Smith moment in postseason 34 years ago

Cavaliers guard JR Smith’s meltdown in the final seconds of regulation in Thursday’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals will be a part of his legacy.

But one former NBA star was able to overcome the same blunder much earlier in his career.

Derek Harper, who was raised in West Palm Beach and starred at North Shore High School, had a similar experience during the 1984 Western Conference semifinals while a rookie for the Dallas Mavericks. Harper shook off the mistake and went on to play 16 solid seasons in the NBA, including 12 with the Mavericks, who retired Harper’s No. 12 jersey this past season.

Derek Harper speaks before his #12 jersey is retired by the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on January 7, 2018 in Dallas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Harper, an 11th overall pick out of Illinois in 1983, was on the court for the final seconds of Game 4 of the 1984 Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers. The score was tied at 108 when Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar missed a shot with 12 seconds to play. The ball eventually went to Harper with about six seconds remaining.

Thinking Dallas had the lead, Harper stood near midcourt and dribbled out the clock with Magic Johnson loosely guarding him.

The Lakers took control in overtime, winning 122-115 to take a 3-1 series lead. L.A. closed out the Mavericks in five games.

“Yeah, I saw J.R.’s mistake. Of course you feel for him,” Harper told the New York Post Friday. “You (feel bad) even though we live in a society that pushes you to fail more than succeed nowadays because of social media. People want controversy, whether it’s at somebody else’s cost or not. So of course you feel sorry for the guy. It’s human error when you think about it, and we’ve all experienced human error. It’s just not exposed in front of millions and millions of people watching an NBA Finals game.”

Lakers general manager Jerry West called it “one of the strangest, most bizarre things I’ve ever seen,” during an interview before the next game.

“When he kept dribbling, I had to look at the scoreboard to make sure of the score,” West said. “Everything crosses your mind in a situation like that, so I was wondering if he wanted the game to go into overtime and, if so, why. … It was a good break for us.”

West added, “I just hope it doesn’t have a lasting effect on Harper’s career. He does a nice job for Dallas.”

It didn’t. Harper had a solid career averaging 15.2 points, 6.3 assists and twice being voted to the All-Defensive second team. From 1987-88 to 1992-93 Harper started all but three games and averaged 18.0 points and 6.8 points.

“I was (a rookie) at the time and it was an honest mistake,” Harper told the New York Post. “The question becomes how you rebound from it.

“You’re always supposed to know the time and the score. I’ve been hearing that since I was 5 years old, but people have mental lapses. The repercussion is for everybody to go crazy and talk about how bad the play was and ‘What were you thinking?’ You could look at (LeBron James’) reaction to see how he felt about it.

Smith rebounded teammate George Hill’s missed free throw with less than five seconds remaining in Thursday’s Game 1 and the score tied at 107. He dribbled to halfcourt before realizing Cleveland was not leading. By that time it was too late as he tried to get the ball to Hill for a desperation shot.

Like the Mavericks in 1984, the Cavaliers wilted in overtime, losing 124-114.

But unlike Harper, Smith did not admit to his mistake. He said he knew the score and dribbled toward halfcourt looking for an opening for a shot. But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said that Smith thought the Cavaliers were leading.

“That’s the wrong way to go about it. When you make a mistake, you own the mistake and move on,” Harper said. “The only thing that will set you free is to be open and honest. I don’t know how else to say it.”

Heat president Pat Riley was coach of the Lakers at that time. Harper later joined up with Riley in New York and was Riley’s starting point guard for the Knicks team that went to the 1993-94 NBA Finals.

Harper works as an analyst for the Mavericks television broadcasts.

 

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Heat’s Kelly Olynyk weighs in on bizarre ending to Game 1 of Finals

Miami’s Kelly Olynyk reacts during at game against Boston this past season. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Miami Heat big man Kelly Olynyk is half a world away, in India, and did not have a chance to watch Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

But Olynyk, who is at the NBA Academy India in the National Capital Territory of Delhi to serve as coaches for Basketball Without Borders Asia, knows how one of the more bizarre Finals games ended Thursday with controversial plays at the end of regulation and overtime of the Warriors’ 124-114 victory over the Cavaliers.

Olynyk, talking with Heat writers on a conference call, was asked about Cleveland’s JR Smith forgetting the score at the end of regulation and dribbling out the clock with the game tied and the Cavs’ Tristian Thompson taking offense to Golden State’s Shaun Livingston taking a shot in the final seconds of overtime instead of holding onto the ball and being called for a shot-clock violation.

Olynyk, a five-year veteran who spent his first four seasons in Boston, said it’s not that unusual for somebody to lose track of the score.

“I feel like I’ve forgotten the score before,” he said. “You’re down one and you think you’re up one. Then you realize it and it’s too late. That happens all the time. It’s human. Everybody is a human.”

But Smith happened to do it at the most crucial time on the biggest stage after rebounding teammate George Hill’s missed free throw with less than five seconds remaining with the score tied at 107, and dribbling to halfcourt before realizing the situation.

Smith tried to say he knew the score and was looking for an opening for a shot. But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said that Smith thought the Cavaliers were leading.

Olynyk said the only thing a team can do is move on and get ready for overtime, something the Cavaliers did not do very well being outscored by 10 points.

“It’s in the past,” Olynyk said. “You’ve got to strap up and play overtime. There’s not much else you can do. You have five more minutes to win a basketball game.”

As for the final seconds of overtime and Thompson being called for a Flagrant 2 foul and being ejected, Olynyk said it does not matter to him if a team tries to score late in a game that is decided. He referenced the Heat’s Game 2 playoff win over Philadelphia when some of the  Sixers were not happy that Heat guard Goran Dragic dribbled down the court for an uncontested layup with 1.2 seconds remaining in Miami’s 113-103 victory.

“Obviously it depends on where you’re playing and what you’re playing for,” Olynyk said. “If you’re playing in FIBA, points for and against count. So you have to do that. That’s been Goran’s approach his whole life. That’s part of basketball in the international game. Points for and against, sometimes tiebreakers come down to that.

“In the NBA it’s a little different. It’s kind of like a sportsmanship thing. It’s something you do that you run out the clock. I don’t really think it makes a difference personally. Whether you lose by 17 or 20 or whether you win by eight or win by nine or whether you have 12 turnovers or 13 turnovers. It’s not affecting the outcome of the game. It doesn’t really matter to me. It doesn’t really make a difference to me. It doesn’t make a difference in the outcome of the game, win and loss record. If a guy wants two more points we’ll give it to him and move onto Game (2).”

The Warriors said it’s their philosophy never to take a turnover.

“It’s habit,” Olynyk said. “They don’t want any habit that leads to a turnover. I guess that’s whatever. … their prerogative.”

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NBA Finals: JR Smith’s blunder costs LeBron, Cavaliers chance to steal Game 1 from Warriors

Cleveland’s LeBron James looks at JR Smith as time expires in regulation against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals with the score tied at 107. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Cavaliers – the biggest underdogs in the Finals in 30 years – squandered a golden opportunity to steal Game 1 and now must be wondering just what they have to do to win a game against the Golden State Warriors.

In the final minute of regulation, the Cavaliers were victimized by a little-known rule that allowed the officials to change a call and then watched JR Smith dribble out what could have been their only chance at a win.

Smith rebounded a missed George Hill free throw with 4.7 seconds to play in regulation and thinking the Cavs had the lead raced to halfcourt with the ball. The problem was the game was tied and Smith’s brain cramp send the game into overtime where the Warriors dominated for a 124-114 win.

Although Smith tried to save himself by saying he knew the game was tied and he was trying to find room to get a shot and then thought Cleveland going to call a time out, he clearly believed the Cavs had the lead.

Cavs coach Tryonn Lue confirmed that.

“He thought it was over,” Lue said. “He thought we were up one.”

The look on LeBron James’ face told the story. James finished with 51 points and must have been wondering if his effort was going to go to waste.

It did.

Smith’s mental meltdown concluded a bizarre final minute filled with drama and breakdowns.

It all started with a reversal on a block-charge call with 34.6 seconds to play that had a huge impact on the outcome. Kevin Durant was originally called for an offensive foul but because the officials could review the play to see if James was in the restricted circle, the actual call was also able to be reviewed. It was changed – correctly – to a block on James.

Instead of the Cavs leading 104-102 with the ball, Durant made both free throws and the game was tied.

“For our team to come out and play their hearts out, compete the way we did, it’s bad,” Lue said about the overturned call.

Fast forward to the final seconds with the Warriors leading 107-106 thanks to a Stephen Curry basket and free throw. The Warriors fell asleep on the biggest possession of the game and Klay Thompson had to grab Hill, who was cutting to the basket and would have been wide open as James was making the pass. Hill made the first free throw to tie the score and missed the second, setting up Smith’s blunder.

All of which must have James wondering: “What more can I do?”

James had the sixth 50-point game in NBA Finals history. He also tied Michael Jordan with his 109th playoff game with at least 30 points. James shot 19 of 32, had eight rebounds and eight assists and still could not will his team to a win.

In addition, the Cavaliers finished with a 52-38 rebounding advantage and the Warriors were just 8 of 30 on 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter. They finished 13 of 36.

While Lue said the  Cavs were robbed, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team was lucky.

“We played as well as we’ve played all postseason,” James said. “We gave ourselves a chance possession after possession after possession. And there were some plays that were kind of taken away from us.”

Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson confronts Golden State’s Draymond Green late in Game 1. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Let’s get physical: With the Cavaliers’ frustration level already boiling over, tempers flared in the final seconds of overtime and it could impact Sunday’s Game 2. After James had words with Curry and Thompson, Cleveland’s Tristian Thompson took offense to Shaun Livingston taking a shot with four seconds remaining and threw an elbow at Livingston.

Thompson said the thought Livingston should not have shot the ball and taken the shot clock violation. “That was some bull****,” he said.

Livingston, and the rest of the Warriors, disagreed.

“We don’t ever take a turnover,” Livingston said. “We finish the game out, that’s just how we play. That’s not disrespect to any team.”

Thompson was immediately ejected and as the teams came together Golden State’s Draymond Green started talking and waiving goodbye. Thompson shoved the basketball and his hand in Green’s face. Green backed off.

The league certainly will take a look at the play today and could fine or even suspend Tristian Thompson for a game.

Klay Thompson is in pain after injuring his left knee. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Warriors let out sigh of relief: As much as we all believe this will be a quick series the first quarter reminded us how quickly things could change.

Everybody connected to the Warriors held their breath when Smith slipped and rolled into Klay Thompson’s left knee about six minutes into the game. The Warriors guard went down grimacing and slapped the court, a bad sign. But the news was as good as it could have been for the Warriors as Thompson was diagnosed with a leg contusion and returned at the start of the second quarter. He finished with 24 points.

But the play illustrates why nothing is guaranteed. This could easily have ended differently and suddenly the Warriors are down one of their stars and the series takes on a whole different look.

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