MILWAUKEE — There’s one play that best epitomizes the Cleveland Cavaliers’ listless 118-101 loss against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.
With 2:57 remaining in the second quarter and play set to resume following a timeout, four of the five Cavaliers were in position, ready to defend. All of them, but J.R. Smith.
The unpredictable shooting guard was dapping up veteran Jason Terry on the Milwaukee bench while Tony Snell, the player Smith was supposed to be guarding, sprinted to the basket and recorded the easiest two points of his career.
“I wasn’t even paying attention,” Smith said. “I don’t even remember that.”
When Smith asked a reporter to point out the specific play, and was informed of his blunder, being responsible for the uncontested dunk, Smith’s response turned even more bizarre, choosing to plead ignorance.
“I didn’t even know I was in the game,” he said. “My bad.”
OK then. Whether he truly knew or not — and chances are he did as he was about 90 feet away from his own bench, two teammates appeared to yell at him immediately and a few admitted they saw the video in the locker room and had a chuckle about it, with one saying it would be on Shaqtin’ A Fool — it was a significant play.
No, it’s not why the Cavs lost. There were plenty of things that went wrong during their worst performance of the season. But that play started a 7-0 Bucks run and helped build momentum going into halftime. And while many on social media were laughing hysterically and posting videos, Milwaukee was in the midst of shredding Cleveland’s answerless defense.
“I didn’t see it yet,” Lue said when asked about the error after the game.
I’m sure he has by now. It’s unavoidable. Most have seen it, including those in the Bucks’ locker room where the blunder was part of the postgame chatter.
“Oh yeah, that was a timeout play,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said after tying his career high with 34 points. “Jason (Kidd) told Jet, ‘Occupy him and…’ No. I’m joking.”
Terry is a savvy veteran. Did he know play had begun? Was this part of some devious plan to pull one over on his buddy?
“Nah, I was just saying what’s up, that’s it,” Terry said before noting he didn’t know play had restarted. “Totally harmless.”
And believe it or not, Smith’s gaffe wasn’t even the oddest part of Tuesday night. Nor was his explanation in the locker room.
When it was time to get dressed before getting on the second bus out of the arena, Smith appeared perplexed that reporters huddled around his locker waiting to talk to him. After all, he had just scored six points, going 2-of-7 from the field and acknowledged that he will have to walk out his front door backwards in an effort to change his bad shooting luck.
He tossed on his clothes in front of the locker adjacent to LeBron James, put up his hood, threw on a black ski mask that completely covered his mouth and sat in his cushy chair looking like a comic book villain — ready to answer questions.
“It’s my alter ego,” Smith said when queries came about his latest fashion choice. “It’s a gift from Ohio State, so I figure why not (wear it)?”
His alter ego does have a name, but he can’t — or perhaps isn’t — willing to reveal it. Stay tuned. It’s only November. Who knows what J.R. will do next.
J.R. Smith and his “alter ego” make a postgame appearance. pic.twitter.com/5vyGxeTjir
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) November 30, 2016