CLEVELAND -- Since the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired shooting guard Iman Shumpert in the very same trade that brought fellow shooter J.R. Smith from the New York Knicks and sent Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder in January of 2015, he has been a constant source of energy off the bench.
Shumpert has been utilized for his defensive intensity and ability to spark effort and energy within his teammates, and he did that in the form of a right-handed dunk in Monday’s 116-105 win over the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Quicken Loans Arena.
“Kyrie made everyone collapse, and I was able to get it and turn the corner, get to my launching pad,” Shumpert said.
“I’m pretty used to it, getting a dunk, but in the playoffs, it’s definitely a good feeling. In the playoffs, it could be a layup and they go crazy, but if it is a dunk, if it is a dunk, it usually calls for a timeout, but I guess we didn’t score enough for us to get that timeout moment.
“That’s usually the best moment in the playoffs. It’s one of those energy plays, and my job on this team, especially with the unit that I come in with is to provide energy, and I feel like that was one of those plays that provided that.”
PHOTOS: Cleveland Cavaliers face Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of Eastern Conference Semifinals
With 1:56 to play in the first quarter, center Tristan Thompson secured a defensive rebound and outleted the ball to point guard Kyrie Irving. The Eastern Conference All-Star starter pushed the pace and found Shumpert streaking toward the hoop.
Shumpert went up in traffic and threw home the dunk, which gave the Cavaliers a 12-point lead.
“In the playoffs, that’s huge,” Thompson said. “It’s just those little plays in our game, especially in the playoffs, that can change the whole game, change the whole series, so he was great coming off the bench, bringing that energy and making some plays in that second half. He was huge for us.”
Smith added, “I’ve seen a few like that from Shump. It was different because I’ve never seen him jump so low and dunk it like that. Normally, he’s so much higher, but it’s great to see. His enthusiasm is his strength that he brings to this team, so it helped.”
And more importantly than the dunk against the Raptors, Shumpert has proven adept on the defensive end.
In a Game 2 win over the Pacers, Shumpert held Paul George to just four points on one-of-four shooting in the third quarter after he scored 18 in the first half. Then, in Game 1, Shumpert helped limit DeRozan to less than 50 percent shooting.
“Shump’s been great these last two series, really taking the challenge defensively,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Last series against Paul George and against DeMar DeRozan, two premiere players in our league, he took a challenge and did a great job.
“Shump came in against Paul George, against DeRozan again and Kyle Lowry and gave us a big boost in momentum going into the second and third quarters. Shump was really good for us. I like his energy. I like his defensive intensity, and we’ve just got to continue building on it.”