Brown: Steph Curry was clutch; J.R. Smith was not.

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Daniel Brown Colum­nist

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.

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