For the first time maybe ever, J.R. Smith didn’t want to shoot.
But while Smith deservedly takes heat for wasting a brilliant LeBron James performance in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals, he’s shielding the contest’s officiating crew from scorn.
Most infamously, an obscure rule allowed the refs to review this crucial charge call on Kevin Durant. It became a blocking foul on LeBron.
33-year-old LeBron James steps in to take a charge in the #NBAFinals
— Hashtag Basketball (@hashBasketball) June 1, 2018
The play caused a stink online, but I’m pretty fine with it. Refs are allowed to review whether a player is in the restricted area on a charge/block call, then can change their call if the review changes their mind. Even if it has nothing to do with the placement of the defender’s feet.
On aggregate, the refs actually had a pretty decent game. But they seemed to save their worst whistles for the contest’s closing stretch.
Starting with this blatant uncalled travel on Jordan Bell.
Then there’s this play. The refs got one thing right: Durant got fouled. But they called it on LeBron instead of on Larry Nance, and they gave Durant two free throws even though he’d lost the ball two steps before throwing his hands in the air. (As usual, ignore whatever Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson say or think.)
During Smith’s mental meltdown, LeBron called timeout with about a second left, five feet from an official.
But the most glaring referee screwups in Game 1 came on a pair of strips about seven minutes of game action apart.
LeBron got hacked by Kevon Looney without a whistle.
Then George Hill got KD cleanly in overtime, according to everyone but the officials on the floor.
Game 1 will forever be known as the one Smith brain-farted away, but if any one of these calls in regulation went the other way, the mighty Warriors would be in a hole.