NBA: Cavs' Smith changes story on late-game error in Finals Game 1; James upbeat on levelling series

Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith speaking to reporters during a practice session in Oakland, California, on June 2, 2018.
Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith speaking to reporters during a practice session in Oakland, California, on June 2, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith admitted on Saturday (June 2) that he might not have been aware of the score during his late mistake in Game One of the NBA Finals.

He grabbed an offensive rebound with 4.5 seconds remaining and the game tied at 107-107, and dribbled the ball in the wrong direction as time expired on the team's chances to win in regulation.

In the aftermath of his team's deflating 124-114 overtime loss on Thursday, the veteran guard had initially said that he was aware the score was tied.

"After thinking about it a lot the last 24 hours, or however many since the game was over, I can't say I was sure of anything at that point," Smith told reporters.

Television cameras appeared to catch Smith telling team-mate LeBron James that he thought the Cavs were ahead after the fourth quarter ended.

"I might have said that," Smith said. "I might have."

Game Two is on Sunday at Golden State and LeBron James said that while their Game One loss was among the most difficult of his career, he is relishing the opportunity to even the best-of-seven series series.

James scored 51 points, snatched eight rebounds and dished out eight assists in their loss, where the Cavaliers had the lead with less than a minute to play in regulation.

"It's one of the toughest losses I've had in my career as well because of everything that kind of went on with the game and the way we played," said the 33-year-old, who is playing in his eighth consecutive National Basketball Association Finals and ninth in total.

"I mean, it's a new day. For me, I woke up feeling excited about the opportunity for us to get better today. Excited about the opportunity that presents itself tomorrow."

He said the loss was hard on the entire team including guard George Hill, who missed a free throw that would have given the Cavaliers the lead with less than five second left in the fourth quarter.

"It was a tough 24 hours not only for G-Hill and for myself but for our whole ball club because we put ourselves in a great position to be successful," James said.

"But like I said, you give yourself a day - if you need to take two days, okay. But today you should feel excited about the opportunity to be better and be great and move forward."

James said his left eye, which was bloodied when Warriors forward Draymond Green poked it as he drove to the basket, felt better even if it did not look that way.

"I'm taking my medication that I've been given by the doctors," he said. "My eye drops and my antibiotic to help me with the recovery as fast as possible. But it's an eye. I mean, it's going to recover as fast as it can on its own," he said.

"There is nothing you can do. I can't ice it or anything like that, or if I get more sleep or whatever the case may be. I'll just have to naturally, organically let heal."

Smith has faced enormous backlash from fans and the media following the Game One incident.

The mercurial player said he is equipped to deal with it.

"That's pretty much who I've been my whole life. I've always been the one guy who is the butt of the jokes or the one guy who does something crazy and everybody has got to look at or whatever the case may be," he said.

"I told somebody right after the game that I'm glad it happened to me, as opposed to anybody else on my team."

Meanwhile, the Warriors' Klay Thompson is questionable and forward Andre Iguodala is still considered doubtful for Game Two.

Thompson suffered a left ankle sprain when he was inadvertently undercut by Smith during a play in the first quarter in Game One.

Iguodala has missed Golden State's last five play-off games with a left knee injury. Thompson, who would return to finish with 24 points in Game One, was seen limping during the Warriors' practice session on Saturday.