CLEVELAND -- Shooting guard Iman Shumpert had one thing on his mind when he was told at halftime that starter J.R. Smith would no longer be available for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of the opening round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs Monday night.
Shumpert focused squarely on what needed to be done for the Cavaliers to win, and it worked, as they earned a 117-111 victory over the Pacers, which gave them a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that heads to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for tonight’s Game 3 matchup.
“Win the game,” Shumpert said simply.
“That’s all our purpose, to get out here and add to what the team needs to win. That’s everybody’s job, so I just did my job.”
Shumpert buried two of his three attempts from the field, including one of his two three-point tries on the way to his five points. Additionally, Shumpert tallied a steal and fought for and won a jump ball, but it was his defense against Pacers small forward Paul George that perhaps was the most important contribution.
After George scored 18 points in the first half, Shumpert held him to just four on one-of-four shooting in the third quarter.
“I think I just played less minutes than him,” Shumpert said modestly. “I think I was a little overly excited to be out there. I ended up picking up a foul right away, but it’s a playoff game. It’s high energy. It’s my type of game.”
Although Shumpert was modest when asked about his contributions to the win, he drew rave reviews from coach Tyronn Lue, who knows a similar effort from Shumpert, no matter how much or little he plays, will be of critical importance as the playoffs continue.
“Shump was unbelievable, just staying ready, being professional,” Lue said. “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 and made a couple big shots for us, so just had the energy defensively, made a couple shots.
“His tenacity, it was really good for us. We needed that spark. He’s been great on the bench, cheering guys on, keeping guys motivated, and then, when it was his turn to play, he stepped up and played well, and that’s what we need from Shump.”