Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith made one of the costliest mistake in NBA Finals history Thursday night, grabbing a critical offensive rebound in the final seconds of a tie game, and then dribbling the ball out to mid-court instead of looking to shoot or pass to an open LeBron James. For J.R., it was perhaps the most questionable decision in a career full of questionable decisions.
But did it comes as a surprise? Not to fans of the New York Knicks, who are well aware of J.R.’s penchant for forgetting the score at critical moments. In fact, good ole Earl pulled a very similar stunt in a memorable 102-100 loss to the Houston Rockets in January 2014.
With the score tied at 100, Tyson Chandler grabbed the all-important offensive rebound off a Beno Udrih miss, than kicked the ball back out to Udrih, who then passed to Smith with the shot clock turned off. The Knicks were all set up to hold for the final shot. And then...J.R. happened.
”Honestly, I thought we were down two,” Smith told The Daily News. “I shot the ball, I started hearing Tyson (Chandler) saying ‘no, no, no don’t take a shot.’ But by that time it was already released.”
This became the infamous “Blame Beno” game, as head coach Mike Woodson—who coached the entire 2013-14 season like a man who had never watched his team play before—lashed out publicly at Udrih for passing the ball to J.R. in the first place.
For J.R., it was the culmination of a disastrous campaign that started out with a suspension for weed, and also witnessed him get caught untying his opponent shoelaces during a game. For the Knicks, it was the second time a player put up a shot in the waning seconds of the game without knowing the score (Andrea Bargnani pulled that trick a few games earlier, against the Bucks.)
The 2013-14 Knicks did not have LeBron James—duh—but they were a pretty talented team led by Carmelo Anthony in perhaps his finest season as a pro. They failed to make the playoffs, however, because of countless moments of on-court idiocy. From the coach on down, they may have been the most boneheaded collection of Knicks in the past 20 years...and that’s really saying something!
In the end, we Knicks fans can only look back on those days with a bemused smile as the rest of the NBA laments a tragic Game 1 loss by the Cavs. We may not be experts when it comes to the Finals, but when it comes to enduring mind-blowing J.R. Smith errors, we have all the experience we could ever need.