Heading Logo


Cavaliers' J.R. Smith questionable for Game 3 at Pacers with sore hamstring

Associated Press Published: April 20, 2017 4:00 AM

CLEVELAND -- Even after practice ended, J.R. Smith didn't stop.

He jogged, sprinted and did everything possible to test his sore left hamstring. The Cavaliers starting guard spent the entire second half of Game 2 on the bench and doesn't want to be there again if he can help it.

"I don't like sitting out," he said Wednesday. "Sat out enough."

Smith is listed as questionable for Game 3 on Thursday night at Indianapolis as the Cavaliers look to take a 3-0 lead over the Indiana Pacers.

Smith, who hurt his leg at some point in the first half of Game 2, said he'll "absolutely" be ready for Game 3. However, the Cavs aren't willing to go that far just yet and will likely wait until game time before clearing him. Smith said an MRI "came back fine" and that treatment should help him heal.

[Article continues below]

If Smith can't play, Iman Shumpert, who came off the bench to replace him Monday night and gave Cleveland a lift, likely will start. Shumpert stepped up after being benched in the series opener, a demotion that seemed inevitable after his late-season struggles and coach Tyronn Lue's tightening of his rotation in the postseason.

Smith and Shumpert have swapped roles before. When Smith missed 36 games following thumb surgery, Shumpert filled in for the defending champs.

Shumpert limited Indiana star Paul George to just four points in the third quarter Monday when the Cavs built a 19-point lead. He also dropped a 3-pointer and gave Cleveland energy.

"He came in, played great defense, forced a couple turnovers, hit two big shots for us," Smith said. "He stayed professional during the whole process, which is all you can ask because that's a tough task to grasp. Starting at one point during the season when I was hurt and playing well, then not playing Game 1 and then not playing the first half and still able to go out there and perform, you've got to take your hat off to him."

Lue has confidence that Shumpert, who made 31 starts during the regular season, will deliver if called upon again.

[Article continues below]

"It's been our mentality all year -- next man up -- and Shump has been playing all year," he said. "Just one game he didn't play, so in a big game like the other night he was ready to play and ready to go in a big playoff game."

As for Smith, the hamstring injury is just a blip in what has been a personally challenging season.

In January, Smith's wife, Jewel, gave birth to their daughter five months prematurely. The baby remains in the hospital, but earlier this week Smith got to give her a bottle for the first time.

"She's doing good," he said. "We can't complain. ... We just have to take it day by day and hopefully one day soon she'll come home."

George insists comments intended to motivate Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George insists it's true: Instead of being unhappy with his teammates, the four-time All-Star just wants them to play better basketball.

As for the critics, well, they fall into a different category. Less than 48 hours after the Indiana Pacers star challenged two more players in a postgame news conference, George fired back at the notion that he was not supportive of his team.

"It's complete ignorance, to be honest," he said. "Everybody knows how close I am with my teammates and I said that only to motivate my teammates to win this series and win a championship. I didn't say anything even close to throwing them under the bus. If I didn't say nothing, it would have been another story."

Twice, Indiana had chances to beat defending champion Cleveland on its home court. Both times, the Pacers failed in the final minute. And if they can't dig themselves out of an 0-2 deficit when the first-round series resumes in Indianapolis on Thursday night, George and Indiana will be facing an elimination game Sunday.

Still, George's sharp, direct complaints after the first two games caught some off guard.

He complained that C.J. Miles should not have taken the final shot in the 109-108 Game 1 loss even though Miles had an open 14-footer. George, who is 0 for 14 in his career on potential go-ahead baskets in the final 20 seconds according to basketball-reference.com, wanted Miles to pass the ball back to him.

Then, after Tuesday's 107-101 loss, George called on longtime friend Lance Stephenson to show more self-control and implored second-year center Myles Turner to get more physical. George also questioned the team's defensive effort, and Indiana's overall aggressiveness.

At age 26, George is still growing into the role of team leader and he has potentially tens of millions of dollars riding on the media's All-NBA teams. Like many other stars, George feels like he has a license to say what's on his mind.

LeBron James, for instance, has not been silent about the personnel moves he thinks the Cavs should make and has never shied away from getting in teammates' faces on the court. George named names, though the Pacers seemed to take no offense.

"In situations like that, our guys are free to speak and talk about situations like that," coach Nate McMillan said. "You challenge your guys, your teammates. We believe in each other, we trust in each other and it was not a situation like there were hurt feelings in the locker room."

In fact, George, Miles, Stephenson and Turner were smiling and laughing throughout Wednesday's practice.

Turner acknowledged he must get more physical in this series, and Stephenson said he needs to find the balance between passion and playing out of control.

"When someone is scoring on you and you show frustration, they're going to keep going at you and I think that's what Paul was talking about," Stephenson said after calling George his brother.

George is averaging 30.5 points, 7.0 assists and 6.5 rebounds in the first two games, similar to the numbers he had during a five-game winning streak that got the Pacers into the playoffs. His frustration likely runs deeper than two road losses in a first-round series against the defending champs.

Ever since Indiana took George at No. 10 overall in the 2010 draft, the 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward has envisioned bringing Indiana its first NBA title. And now the Pacers are two losses away from being eliminated by James' team for the fourth time in six years, the first three while James played for Miami.


Rate this article

Do you want to leave a comment?   Please Log In or Register to comment.