The titanically underdog Cleveland Cavaliers walked into Oracle Arena for Game 1 of the Finals fearing neither god nor man and almost stole home-court advantage from the Golden State Warriors.
It was a huge call; instead of the Cavs getting the ball with a 2-point lead and 30 seconds to play, Durant sunk two free throws to tie the score, setting up Smith's gaffe and Golden State's eventual overtime win.
"He thought it was over".
"I thought I read that play just as well as I read any play in my career, defensively", he said. "You've got to know the score".
James was visibly bemused and frustrated following Smith's error and the Cavaliers never recovered. Smith gobbled up the rebound and, with precious seconds ticking away, high-tailed it for center court. I'm pretty sure everybody didn't think I was going to shoot it over KD. "Clearly that wasn't the case". "Both teams played extremely tough".
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Durant, who had three blocks, said, "If he had tried to put a layup up, I had a good chance to contest it". However, in a post-game interview, Smith made a different version of the story, saying that he knew the game was tied when he got the rebound.
It looked like Smith mistakenly believed Cleveland had the lead and thought he only needed to keep possession to win.
Posting the network's best night since the 2018 Oscars, Game 1 dominated all recent television with its overtime coverage of the Warriors' win.
Last season, it was Durant who enjoyed that honor after earning his first National Basketball Association championship and guiding Golden State to its second in three seasons. The Cavs shot 27% from behind the arc and 44.4% overall, while the Warriors shot 51% from the field despite Kevin Durant's offensive struggles. James has eight games with 40 or more points in these playoffs, matching Jerry West for the most such games in a single postseason.
With the game tied at 107 and just four seconds remaining, George Hill had one free throw to potentially give the Cavaliers the lead. 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.