OAKLAND, Calif. — While many Cavaliers fans might blame J.R. Smith for losing track of the score and dribbling out the clock in a tie game at the end of regulation, a replay reversal a few seconds earlier that wiped out a charging call against the Warriors’ Kevin Durant might have been more costly in the Cavs’ 124-114 overtime loss in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night at Oracle Arena.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue went so far as to say the refs “robbed” his team when they went to the television monitors and changed the Durant charge to a blocking foul on LeBron James. Instead of the Cavaliers getting the ball back with a two-point lead with 36.4 seconds left, Durant was awarded two foul shots that he converted to tie the score at 104.
Had the call stood, the Warriors might have been forced to foul and James would have been celebrated for his defensive acumen as well as his 51-point performance. Instead, of six players to score at least 50 points in the NBA Finals, he became the first to lose.
“It was epic, and he did enough to carry this team to victory,” Lue said. “To do what he did and come out robbed, it’s just not right.”
Recognizing Durant was open on a drive to the basket, James stepped above the line defining the restricted area and planted himself in the path of Durant, who barreled into him as both players fell and the whistle blew. The call was a charge, but crew chief Ken Mauer told a pool reporter that doubt about whether James was in the restricted area triggered a review.
“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,” Mauer said. “We had to change it to a blocking foul.”
Lue was incensed by the reversal. “LeBron was clearly four feet outside the restricted area,” Lue said. “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.
“I mean, it’s bad. It’s never been done before where you know he’s outside the restricted and then you overturn the call and say it’s a block. It’s never been done, ever, in the history of the game. . . . It ain’t right.”
James was equally adamant that the call should not have been reversed. “I read that play just as well as I’ve read any play in my career, maybe in my life,’’ he said. “I knew I was outside the charge line, and I knew I took the hit. I don’t know what else to say.”
Durant said the same thing happened to him last season after the rules changed to allow a review in that situation. “I knew they could review that situation,” he said. “I knew I had my man beat and he came over a little late. When they called the charge, I was surprised, but I’m glad they reviewed it.”