With mere seconds remaining in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers and the score knotted at 107, guard J.R. Smith pulled down an offensive rebound off a missed free throw from teammate George Hill.
But instead of going right up with a shot after getting the rebound, Smith dribbled the ball out to near half court.
Smith’s gaffe was one of numerous mishaps that contributed to Cleveland losing Game 1 of the series, and former Cavaliers big man Larry Nance Jr. recently revealed the mood of the team’s locker room after the defeat.
"I can laugh, but the hurt in that locker room, the sheer hurt we all felt… The locker room afterwards was just, oh man, it was low."@Larrydn22 talks about the mistakes made in game 1 of the 2018 finals. 😭 pic.twitter.com/jOpzV5Xmhe
— Run It Back (@RunItBackFDTV) December 14, 2023
Nance and the Cavaliers ultimately lost Game 1 by a final score of 124-114 after the Warriors outscored them 17-7 in overtime.
As Nance alluded to, LeBron James had himself a herculean performance in the loss. Across 48 minutes of playing time, he dropped 51 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Furthermore, he shot 19-of-32 from the field and 10-of-11 from the free-throw line.
Game 1 proved to arguably be Cleveland’s best shot at winning a game against the Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals. Golden State proceeded to take the next three games of the series and sweep the Cavaliers.
Two of the Warriors’ final three wins during the championship series came by 19 points or more. They won Game 2 by 19 points and Game 4 by 23 points.
Nance stuck around in Cleveland for three more seasons after the team came up short of a title in the 2018 NBA Finals. His last season with the Cavaliers came during the 2020-21 campaign. In the summer of 2021, the Cavaliers dealt Nance to the Portland Trail Blazers as part of a three-team deal that sent Lauri Markkanen to Cleveland and Derrick Jones Jr. to the Chicago Bulls.
Perhaps the outcome of the 2018 NBA Finals would have been different for Nance and the Cavaliers had Smith tried to score the ball during the final play of regulation in Game 1 as opposed to dribble the ball out. But at least the Cavaliers beat the Warriors in seven games in the 2016 NBA Finals, giving Cleveland its first NBA title.