It should come as no surprise that Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers had a lot of people paying attention.
The fourth straight Finals meeting between the two teams was billed to be a blowout-in-the-making according to Las Vegas sportsbooks. However, Thursday night’s action proved to be much closer than imagined. Powered by superstar LeBron James’s 51 points, eight assists and eight rebounds, Cleveland actually had the lead late, and eventually went to overtime — where they lost 124-114.
How they got there, however, took over Twitter — according to emotion measurement company Canvs.
With under 10 seconds remaining in the game, the Cavs’ George Hill hit a free throw to tie the game at 107. He missed the second, creating a rebound for his teammate J.R. Smith, who could have drove toward the basket or called a timeout. Instead, he basically ran out the clock, thinking Cleveland had the lead until it was too late.
Smith refuted that account of events afterward (he claimed he knew the game was tied). But regardless of intent, the poor decision-making generated a spike in emotional reactions (ERs) around J.R. on Twitter.
Per Canvs, “crazy” reactions prevailed around Smith, and the game generated 20,875 ERs in the five minutes around the moment — the highest point during regulation, and one only bested by ERs at the conclusion of overtime when the Warriors sealed the win.
“Crazy” ended up comprising 9.8% of all ERs during the game, or 41,676 of the total 424,660 ERs for the entire contest. On his own, Smith drove 20.2% (85,761) of ERs, which was second only to James (who regularly drives enough ERs to be his own network). Much of J.R.’s total was centered around the ill-fated play, and it even briefly created a spike for LeBron and “funny” ERs around the meme-worthy reaction to Smith. The orange dots below around 8:25 p.m. PT indicate the two moments back-to-back.
Over the entire month of May, just one other TV program (Billboard Music Awards) generated more ERs than Thursday’s Game one, and with over 424,000 ERs, it quadrupled the average for every individual playoff game leading up to the Finals. Much of that is based on the popularity of NBA programming, the Cavs and Warriors, and LeBron James. But in just one moment, Smith has also added himself to that over-arching narrative.
Canvs shows him as May’s seventh-highest ER driver with 95,020, and over 17,000 of those were related to “crazy” ERs. If he and the Cavaliers are lucky, he’ll keep driving ERs throughout the Finals — but for a different, more “happy” reason going forward.
(header photo via Erik Drost)