Cavaliers Get JR Smith Back For Game 3 Vs. Bulls, May Lose Iman Shumpert
The Cleveland Cavaliers lacked energy and focus in losing Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Chicago Bulls on Monday. Thanks to a lineup change, the Cavs looked like a totally different team in Game 2, jumping to a 13-2 lead and never trailing in a 106-91 victory. Now the Cavs will get back their best 3-point shooter for Friday's Game 3 in J.R. Smith, whose two-game suspension is up. However, the guy who played really well at shooting guard in his place and brings valuable depth and defense, Iman Shumpert, now may have to miss Game 3. The Bulls are 1.5-point favorites on BetOnline.
After inserting Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup, the Cavs defense was much improved for Game 2. The Bulls, who made it look easy in shooting 50.0 percent from the floor in Game 1, did not enjoy the same comfort level against a pressuring, more active Cleveland defense on Wednesday. Chicago shot 40.5 percent.
Shumpert Probably 50-50
Shumpert, who has started the first two games of this series, strained his groin in the second half of Wednesday night's win, and while he has improved, Coach David Blatt said it's possible he may sit out.
"There's a chance of that," Blatt said. "The hope is that he'll be able to play, but we need a little more time."
After he got hurt, Shumpert told LeBron James he felt something "pop." He hobbled to the locker room, but soon returned and rode a stationary bike before re-entering the game. Blatt said the injury isn't as bad as first feared. Shumpert has done everything the Cavs asked so far against the Bulls. He scored 22 points in Game 1, then followed with 15 points and seven rebounds in Game 2.
Smith Should Start Game 3
Smith will likely move into the starting lineup at shooting guard, regardless of Shumpert’s status. Smith averaged 9.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in the sweep of the Celtics. He was suspended for hitting Boston's Jae Crowder in the face in Game 4.
“J.R. for us has been a high-level, two-way performer,” Blatt said. “He’s given us a contribution at both ends of the court. Obviously, he’s a great 3-point shooter, and he’s a courageous offensive player. He’s not afraid to take responsibility and he’s not afraid to take big shots. It’s good to have a guy with that kind of confidence and that kind of courage.”
Blatt doesn’t envision any obstacles to Smith’s return. He started 45 of his 46 games since coming to the Cavaliers on Jan. 5. The Cavaliers became a 3-point shooting team when he came to the team. Smith hasn’t played since April 26. Friday's game will mark a 12-day layoff for Smith.
“I don’t expect that to be an issue in terms of how we play together, more so the adjustment is just for him to get back out there and play after not having played for going on close to two weeks,” Blatt said.
LeBron's teams are 5-2 at the United Center in the postseason over his career, with James averaging 28.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 7.3 assists. That includes a series victory with the Cavs in 2010 and two with Miami.
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