OAKLAND — J.R. Smith was the subject of all the headlines for his mind-boggling decision to dribble out the clock in a tie game at the end of regulation in the Cavaliers’ Game 1 NBA Finals loss to the Warriors on Thursday night. But that moment of madness began when George Hill missed a potential game-winning foul shot with 4.7 seconds left, and the veteran point guard admitted he wrestled with that failure all night after his first career Finals game.
Hill didn’t speak immediately after Game 1, but he fielded every question on a media conference call Friday and pointed squarely at the man in the mirror when asked about the chaotic ending. “I stayed up most of the night re-watching the free throw, re-watching the play,” Hill said. “Just going over it in my head what I think went wrong. I didn’t come through, so for me, it was one of the worst feelings ever.
“But I have great teammates who have been in my ear, telling me to forget about it, continue to focus on the next game and don’t let it linger. I blew that opportunity, but it’s a seven-game series and we have another game on Sunday.”
Asked where this loss ranked in his 10-season career, Hill didn’t hesitate. “This one’s probably number one,” he said. “This one hurt bad with a lot of things that went on.”
Hill listed a call by the officials that originally was against the Warriors, but was overturned after a replay review, leading to two Kevin Durant free throws that tied the game at 104 and then his missed foul shot moments later. He admitted feeling “discombobulated” after the reversal, hinting that it might have affected him.
“I feel like I cost our team the win, and I dealt with that last night,” he said. “We’re moving on as a team. But we’ve got to focus on Game 2 now. It being one of the worst losses, got to put it behind you now.”
Hill is hoping the Cavaliers can draw on the emotional nature of the loss to bring them together with more determination to win a series in which they remain heavy underdogs. “I think our team is the only one who thinks we can win,” Hill said. “A lot of the media counted us out, a lot of teams counted us out. We’re not playing for you guys. We’re playing for the city of Cleveland. We’re playing for each other.
“If you look at Game 1, we can win this series playing the right way. I’m sure everyone in this locker room felt we gave one away. But like I said, we still have a game on Sunday to do the best we can to get back on the right track.”