CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Another injury hit the Cleveland Cavaliers, but once again a teammate was there to pick up the slack.
This time it was guard J.R. Smith who went down and Iman Shumpert, who didn’t see the floor for the first 6 quarters of the series, who came on and helped the Cavs take control in the third quarter with a strong defensive effort on Pacers forward Paul George.
“He tried to give it a go in the third quarter and Steve [Spiro, Cavs trainer] just said it wasn’t smart,” Lue said. “Shump was unbelievable. Just staying ready, being professional. He came in and made it tough on Paul George. We held Paul George to four points in that third quarter where our defense was really good. Shump sparked that, made a couple shots for us also.”
Shumpert limited George, who put up 18 points in the first half, to just 4 points and 4 shot attempts in the third quarter that saw the Cavs outscore the Pacers by 13 points and build an 18-point lead going to the fourth quarter.
Aside from his defense in place of Smith, Shumpert scored 5 points on the offensive end, including a 3 pointer as part of a 7-0 run to begin the second half.
“What I saw was a true professional. You’ve got to stay ready,” LeBron James said.
Smith limped to the locker room at halftime of Game 2 due to a left hamstring injury and did not return.
Smith, who finished with 3 points in 18 minutes while making 1 of 3 shots, came out after just under a minute elapsed in the third quarter and he sat on the baseline near the Cavs bench before eventually moving to the bench later in the quarter.
Kyrie Irving appeared to give Shumpert a pep talk as the second half was about to get underway and it paid off.
“He gave us energy,” Irving said. “To have J.R. go out like that, to come out at halftime – it was a big switch…He came in and just made some big plays for us and that’s just a step in the right direction of just being a consummate professional, especially on a team like this where we have so many pieces.”
Lue said that Smith will be evaluated and his status going forward is unknown for Thursday night’s game 3 in Indianapolis.