Tyronn Lue feels Cavs got “robbed” in Game 1 of NBA Finals

Officiating, JR Smith's blunder, Tristan Thompson ejection headline loss

Daryl Ruiter
June 01, 2018 - 1:47 am
Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue speaks with media following game one of the 2018 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – LeBron James scored 51 points, but the reasons why the Cavs lost Game 1 of the NBA Finals are just absurd.

James put on a Finals performance for the ages that no one will be talking about Friday.

A reviewed and then reversed charge foul with less than 40 seconds left in regulation, George Hill’s missed free throw and J.R. Smith having no idea what the score was as the final seconds in regulation ticked away wiped an incredible performance out.

“To do what he did tonight and come out robbed, it's just not right,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters after the 124-114 overtime loss in Oakland.

Lue was not happy with a replay review that came with 36.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Cavs leading by 2, 106-104.

James appeared to draw a charge by sliding over to the middle of the lane in front of the restricted area as Kevin Durant drove to the basket, but the officials went to the monitors to review the play.

“I read that play just as well as I've read any play in my career, maybe in my life,” James said. “I seen the play happening. I knew I was outside the charge line, and I knew I took the hit. I don't know what else to say.”

According to NBA rules, the officials are only supposed to use replay in that instance to determine if James was in the restricted area, which he clearly was not, but they are permitted to reverse an incorrect call.

“The reason for the trigger is that we had doubt as to whether or not James was in the restricted area,” referee Ken Mauer said via a pool report. “When over at the table, we then are allowed to determine whether or not he was in a legal guarding position. It was determined he was out of the restricted area, but he was not in a legal guarding position prior to Durant’s separate shooting motion. So we had to change it to a blocking foul.”

Lue didn’t buy the explanation.

“LeBron was clearly four feet outside the restricted area. So it doesn't make sense to go review something if -- the review is if he's on the line or if he's close to the charge circle, that's the review. He wasn't close,” Lue lamented. “So what are we reviewing? Either call a blocking foul or call an offensive foul. For our team to come out and play their hearts out and compete the way we did, man, I mean, it's bad. It's never been done before where you know he's outside the restricted, and then you go there and overturn the call and say it's a block. It's never been done, ever, in the history of the game. And then tonight in The Finals on the biggest stage, when our team played well, played our (butt) off, man, it ain't right. It ain't right.”

Durant hit both freebies and tied the game at 106.

Then came the bizarre final 4.5 seconds.

Hill missed the second of 2 free throws that would’ve given the Cavs a 108-107 lead before Smith was utterly clueless as to the score when he secured the rebound off Hill’s miss and proceeded to essentially dribble out the clock before frantically passing the ball into the corner for a desperation heave.

“I knew it was tied,” Smith claimed, despite being caught on camera explaining to an incredulous James “I thought we were ahead” as regulation ended. “I thought we were going to take a timeout because I got the rebound. I’m pretty sure everybody didn’t think I was going to shoot it over KD right there.”

Smith was asked about what he said to James, to which he responded: “If I thought we were ahead, I would have just held on to the ball and let them foul me.”

The officials also blew an obvious lane violation call against Draymond Green on Hill’s missed free throw too that would've given Hill another chance to put the Cavs in front.

Not only did Smith run out the final few seconds but the Cavs also had a timeout in their pocket and there was opportunity for someone, anyone to use it.

Now to the ridiculousness that was the final moments of overtime that saw Tristan Thompson get ejected for a harmless foul before he shoved a basketball into Draymond Green’s face after Green taunted Thompson and the Cavs.

"I contested a shot that shouldn’t have been taken. I mean, it’s like the unspoken rule in the NBA: If you’re up by 10 or 11 with about 20 seconds left, you don’t take that shot," Thompson said. "I made the contest, and next thing I know I was being kicked out for making a contest that we learn in training camp. I don’t know why I got thrown out."

Referee Tony Brothers explained the ejection of Thompson. 

“From the angle that I had on the floor, as he is coming toward [Shaun] Livingston, his elbow is up high and it appears he hits him in the head when he is coming toward him. So that’s why I called the foul and ejected him,” Brothers said in a pool report.

The ejection by Brothers prompted Green to taunt Thompson which almost escalated into a near brawl.

"We have history with these guys and it started in Game 1," Thompson said. "That’s what the playoffs are about -- toughness, energy and grit. Only two teams left standing, so whoever wants to die and fight for that trophy will get it."

It was a bad night for the NBA’s officials and a worse night for the Cavs because any shot they may have had to even make this a series might have just gone out the window.

"Tonight we played as well as we've played all postseason, and we gave ourselves a chance possession after possession after possession," James said. "There were just some plays that were kind of taken away from us. Simple as that."

Beating the Warriors once in the series was a tall task in and of itself, but when the officials interject themselves into the outcome the way they did Thursday night, that task becomes impossible.