Brown: Steph Curry was clutch; J.R. Smith was not.
OAKLAND » Nope, Stephen Curry didn’t know what was happening, either. “We were scrambling,” he said. “We saw J.R. (Smith) running back towards halfcourt and kind of didn’t know what was happening at the time.”
Join the club, Steph. Even after talking to players and coaches from both sides, there was no real consensus on what the heck happened Thursday night after someone dropped the crunch-time minutes of Game 1 in a blender and hit “puree.”
What we know: The Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 124114 in overtime to kick off these surprisingly raucous NBA Finals at Oracle Arena.
What we don’t know: Precisely what Smith was thinking when he grabbed a rebound with 4.5 seconds remaining in a 107-107 game and dribbled away from the basket, as if he thought the Cavaliers had the lead and needed to run out the clock.
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue indeed said Smith told him that “he thought it was over. He thought we were up one.”
LeBron James, who had a terse conversation with Smith after the play, said he didn’t actually talk to Smith about the score. “So I don’t know what J.R. was thinking,” James said.
Smith himself, meanwhile, insisted he knew what he was doing all along.
“I knew we were tied,” Smith said, “but I thought we were going to call timeout because we got the rebound. I’m pretty sure people didn’t think I was going to shoot the ball over Kevin Durant.”
Whatever happened, it opened some extremely weird floodgates. And by the end of a hot-tempered overtime, Curry and James, two of the NBA’s signature players, were jawing at each other like genuine rivals.
Curry said James talked some trash, so he talked right back. Then they got right up in each other’s face- of-the franchise.
“It’s going to happen. There’s going to be chatter,” Curry said later, in a calmer moment. “We’ve gotten very familiar with each other over the last four years. But at the end of the day, it’s a bunch of nothing.”
James was asked for his view of the argument, which also included Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston of the Warriors and Tristan Thompson of the Cavaliers.
“I don’t know,” James said, and left it at that.
Somewhere in this tsunami of strangeness, however, Curry provided a sense of normalcy. He led theWarriors with 29 points, tied for the team lead with nine assists and added six rebounds in 46 minutes. Curry, as he does when he’s at his best, provided a spark at crucial times. That included a halftime buzzerbeater from 38 feet that tied the score 56- 56 and helped snap the Warriors out of their early doldrums.
When it sailed through the net, Curry ripped out his mouth guard in celebration. There was no need to do that because he promptly did his talking with his hands. Curry turned toward the crowd, wagged his finger and began leading the counting like a band leader: That’s one ... two ... three points. The crowd went bonkers.
The game featured 17 ties and 15 lead changes. But Curry’s play, especially in crunch time, helped the Warriors withstand a 51-point barrage from James. Curry made a driving layup (and ensuing foul shot) with 23.5 seconds to play in regulation, giving the Warriors a 107-106 lead.
In overtime, Curry’s playmaking included a no-look, over-the- shoulder pass to Livingston, whose bucket made it 114-107 and allowed Oracle to exhale for the first time all night. In retrospect, Curry’s long 3 — which looked like firsthalf window dressing — proved crucial.
“It was a crazy game,’’ Curry said.
Curry made 5 of his 11 three-point shots. He has six consecutive outings with at least 20 points. And if he keeps playing like this, the Warriors could be in line for another title. That would make one ... two ... three championships since 2015.
Stephen Curry flips a pass over his head and past the Cavaliers’ Kevin Love that resulted in a Shaun Livingston layup.