National Post (Latest Edition)

Cavs not playing blame game

Smith’s Game 1 miscue put in rear-view mirror

- Scott stinson

SAN FRANCISCO • Tyronn Lue said he spoke to J.R. Smith after his puzzling blunder at the end of Game 1, but the Cleveland Cavaliers coach did not provide any clarity on whether his guard knew the score of the game — it was tied — when he dribbled away from the basket instead of trying a game-winning shot.

“Yes, we’ve talked, but I’m not going to share that conversati­on last night,” Lue said on a media conference call on Friday afternoon. “It’s a tough play. If J.R. Smith doesn’t get the offensive rebound, they might get the rebound, call timeout and win in regulation.”

Immediatel­y following the game, Lue said Smith thought the Cavs were up a point, and cameras caught Smith appearing to say the same thing to his baffled teammates. Later, though, he said he knew the game was tied and he was holding the ball in anticipati­on of a timeout.

Lue said even with the confusion at the end of regulation, Smith deserved some credit for giving the Cavs a chance to win in overtime, even if they ended up on the wrong end of a 10-point deficit after the extra frame.

“So that’s behind us. It’s over. There’s nothing you can do about it now. We’ve got to focus in on Game 2.”

The Cavs coach said Smith would start in Game 2. “J.R. can shake off anything, and when everybody tends to count J.R. out, that’s when he comes through. So he’s definitely going to start again. He’s a big part of what we do. That last play is over, it’s behind us and now we’ve got to move on.”

Neither team practised on Friday, with the next game not until Sunday, and Smith was not made available to media.

SPIRITS REMAIN HIGH

Lue and guard George Hill, the only Cleveland player on the conference call, each took mild umbrage at suggestion­s that their spirit might be broken after such a tough loss, which included an overturned foul call involving LeBron James with 30 seconds left and the Smith mishap, spoiling an incredible 51-point effort from James.

“Listen, we’re not broken, all right? We lost a game,” said Lue. “You’ve got to win four in the series. We understand that. It was a tough game for us. We played well enough to win, but we didn’t. Now we’ve got to move on. The guys’ confidence is not shaken. We’ll see what we need to do and how we need to perform to win. We have the blueprint, so now we have to execute at a higher level.”

Hill said his teammates are still confident.

“I don’t think any of us are demoralize­d. I think maybe you guys have us more demoralize­d than we have ourselves,” he said.

HILL LAMENTS LATE MISS

Lost in the controvers­y over the changed foul call and Smith’s play was that he only had the ball in his hands because Hill clanked a free-throw attempt that would have given the Cavaliers a one-point lead.

Hill said Friday it was the toughest loss of his career. He did not speak to media following the game.

“I feel like I cost our team the win. And I dealt with that last night,” Hill said, saying he didn’t sleep much and watched the final plays of the game over and over.

“As a player, competitiv­e guy, put in a situation to help my team win a game, and I didn’t come through. So for me, it sucked,” he said. “It was one of the worst feelings ever. But I have great teammates who have been in my ear, even last night and this morning, telling me to forget about it, continue to just focus on the next game and don’t let it linger. So it is what it is. I blew that opportunit­y, but the good thing is it’s a seven-game series and we have another game on Sunday.”

MEDIA’S WAKE-UP CALL

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that despite being pegged the biggest favourites in almost 20 years to win the title, he was not surprised that Game 1 went to overtime. He dismissed the idea that it was a wake-up call for his team, and blamed the media that had turned the Finals into a foregone conclusion.

“I think it’s your wakeup call,” he said. “Seriously. I mean, we came into this series knowing what we’re up against. We’ve seen this team three years in a row, and we’ve had these amazing battles with them. Everybody else was saying it’s going to be easy. We weren’t the ones.”

Kerr also said that, while it worked in Golden State’s favour, he doesn’t like the way replay-reviews have become more common.

“I’m not a huge fan of replay,” he said. “I would like to see replay limited rather than expanded. But it doesn’t matter what I think. The fact is the rule is the rule. We had seen that play before. It’s happened to us a couple of times on both sides.

“I thought in the end they got the call right. That’s the object of replay,” Kerr said. “It was clearly a block, so they got it right. But I don’t know what else to say on that subject.”

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