OAKLAND (California) • A controversial video review foul reversal left Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue feeling "robbed" after the Golden State Warriors ripped the Cavaliers 124-114 in overtime in Thursday's National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals opener. But the Cavaliers could still have stolen the game in regulation if not for an inexplicable error by J.R. Smith.
Cleveland's George Hill made a free throw to make it 107-107 with 4.7 seconds remaining.
When he missed the second free throw, Smith grabbed the rebound. But, instead of trying for a winning layup, he moved away from Kevin Durant at the hoop and the game went into overtime.
"We got lucky," Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. "He could have taken a shot, but he dribbled out."
Lue said Smith thought the Cavs were ahead and television replays showed the guard telling LeBron James: "I thought we were ahead."
But, when quizzed about it, Smith said he thought the game was tied and was trying for a final shot.
"If I thought we were ahead, I would have just held on to the ball and let them foul me," he insisted.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
It's going to happen. There's going to be chatter. We've become very familiar with each other over the last four years. At the end of the day, it's a bunch of nothing.
STEPHEN CURRY, playing down the verbal encounters between arch-rivals Golden State and Cleveland.
NBA players weighed in on social media as Twitter went wild with Smith memes.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley tweeted: "R u kidding me!!!!! #Dumbo" while Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings wrote: "Naw. Are you serious?"
Golden State opened overtime with a 9-0 run and never looked back. Stephen Curry finished with 29 points, Durant added 26 and Klay Thompson had 24 to spark the defending champions to victory despite James scoring a personal playoff career-high 51 points.
Another crucial moment came with 36.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter as Durant was whistled for a charging foul that was overturned on video review into a blocking foul on James, giving Durant two free throws he made to pull the Warriors level at 104-104.
"To do what he did tonight and come out robbed, it's just not right," Lue said.
James echoed Lue's theft theme.
"There were some plays that we had taken away from us," he said.
Lue said James was clearly outside the line so the play never should have been reviewed, much less reversed.
Referee Ken Mauer defended the choice to review the call.
"We had doubt as to whether or not James was in the restricted area," Mauer said. "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."
The start of the fourth Finals in a row between the teams was physical, heated and emotional.
With the outcome not in doubt in the extra period, Cleveland's Tristan Thompson made a flagrant foul on a last-second shot and was ejected before being taunted by Draymond Green, who had the ball shoved in his face as team-mates kept them apart.
"It's going to happen. There's going to be chatter," Curry said.
"We've become very familiar with each other over the last four years. At the end of the day, it's a bunch of nothing."
The players will lock horns again at Oracle Arena for Game 2 tomorrow (Monday morning, Singapore time).