Cavaliers' Smith to start Game 3 vs. Pacers
INDIANAPOLIS — When JR Smith walked out of the arena after not playing in the second half of the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ 117-111 Game 2 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Monday because of a hamstring injury, he vowed to play in Game 3 as long as the Cavs would let him.
Smith got his wish Thursday after getting through the morning shootaround without any setbacks.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue told reporters before the game that Smith would return to his place in the starting lineup and would be relied upon for his defense on the Pacers’ Paul George, who is averaging 30.5 points per game in the Eastern Conference first-round series thus far.
“Defensively, just challenge Paul George, make his offensive life miserable,” Lue said of the task Smith is charged with. “Just try to make his shots hard, compete. He’s going to make some shots, and some tough shots at that, but just making him work for everything he gets.
“No easy baskets. Not falling asleep, losing him in transition and just bringing that defensive tenacity he brought in Game 1.”
Lue said he was unaware if Smith, who is averaging 4.5 points in the series, would be on any sort of minutes restriction.
Smith had an MRI on his left hamstring Tuesday that came back negative. He said the injury was classified as a bruise.
Iman Shumpert, who collected a “DNP — Coach’s Decision” in Game 1, filled in for Smith in the second half of Game 2 and carved out a spot in Lue’s rotation moving forward.
“You always have to keep guys ready in the playoffs,” Lue said. “You could play 30 seconds or 30 minutes and it could be the biggest 30 seconds you ever played.
“Shump is ready to go after not playing in Game 1. He’s earned himself to play a little bit more. Seeing it the other night was really good.”