The most important play at the end of the Cavs’ sweep of the Pacers was a Paul George 3 that completely missed the rim. Yes — the same Paul George who last week demanded he take the last shot, and the same one who is now 2-for-32 all-time on game-tying and go-ahead shots in the final 15 seconds of games. He took an open 3 that hit the backboard, and now the Pacers’ season is over.
But that never would have happened if not for this play by J.R. Smith. Up three points with just 10 seconds left, Smith had the ball and the Cavs had virtually sealed a victory. This is the point in a game when a football team could win by kneeling. Smith opted to throw a flea-flicker.
The ideal course of action here would’ve been for Smith to sprint to the corner, taking as much time as possible as the Pacers scrambled to foul him. A perfectly reasonable path of action would have been to do absolutely nothing. The Pacers needed to foul, and they would have, if Smith had just stood there.
Instead of doing nothing, he threw a difficult pass with no strategic advantage, and he did it while sprinting. It went directly to George. At least hurling the ball into the air would have taken a few seconds.
J.R. Smith does not seek ideal courses of action. He seeks the most J.R. Smith course of action. Can he take his shirt off, or tie somebody’s shoes together, or tweet a butt? In this case, he couldn’t — it’s tough to remove a shirt, manipulate shoelaces, or publish lewd imagery while holding a basketball — but he could hurl the ball wildly with no regard for the consequences, so that’s what he did.
And the beautiful thing about Smith is that it works. He didn’t just win an NBA championship last year — he was a pivotal part of an NBA championship team. He’s good enough at defending and hitting 3s that he’s worthy of his spot on these Cavs, and if they repeat this year, he’ll be a big part of why. Yes, he takes why-the-hell-would-you-shoot-that 3s. But he also hits them often enough that you can’t be mad at him when he tries.
I would trust J.R. Smith with my life. If he hurled it behind his back into an opponent, I’d be fine with that.