LeBron James valiantly tried to beat the Golden State Warriors for the second time in four straight years in 2018. James’ Cleveland Cavaliers only managed to win one game in the 2017 Finals and were looking to do better.
The four-time MVP did everything he could, scoring a game-high 51 points, but the Cavaliers lost in overtime. The game was most infamous for the JR Smith gaffe.
Smith did not realize the game was tied and dribbled past the clock despite having the opportunity to win. James was livid after the game and stormed off the pitch, knowing they had squandered a series-changing opportunity.
Andre Iguodala, on an episode of “The Point Forward,” shared his thoughts on what he saw in that fateful game:
“He [LeBron James] hurt his hand hitting a wall, to what extent, we don’t know, but he’s like, ‘Man, it’s over! Not that he concedes but, it’s the truth! People don’t understand that. They think, ‘Ah, it doesn’t matter, it’s a game.’
“No! They really matter, that’s why everything about these finals matters.”
The Warriors had a one-point lead with 4.6 seconds left in the game after a Steph Curry free throw. LeBron James wanted to take the final shot but passed the ball to a cutting George Hill, which was held by Klay Thompson. With the Bay Area team in penalty position, Hill had the chance to fend off the Cavs’ lead.
JR Smith caught the second free throw missed with the game tied at 107. Instead of looking for a potential winner, Smith made one of the most egregious errors in professional sports history. He dribbled the ball and squandered the Cavs’ biggest chance to steal Game 1 on the road.
Who knows how the series would have gone had the Cavaliers won that game. Andre Iguodala claimed it was the best performance he had ever seen from LeBron James live. “King James” added 8 rebounds, 8 assists, a steal and a block to his 51 points.
The Warriors had a roster with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. Cleveland replied with James, Smith, Hill, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.
The disparity in firepower was too great to overcome as the Cavaliers were swept away.
LeBron James’ brilliance wouldn’t have been enough to beat this star-studded Golden State Warriors team
Since Kevin Durant arrived at Golden State, the Cleveland Cavaliers have won just one of their eight championship games against the Warriors. Throughout the 2017-18 season, most felt the only team capable of beating the Warriors was Golden State itself.
During the 2018 NBA Finals, LeBron James once again stood out among the best players in the NBA. He averaged 34.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 10.3 assists and 1.3 blocks. Only two players on this Cleveland Cavaliers team averaged double-digit points, James and Kevin Love, who averaged 19.0.
Had the Cavaliers pulled off an upset in Game 1, the Warriors’ all-star shooting, chemistry and power would have been too much in the end.