Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

JR Smith: JR Smith (hamstring) questionable for G3

JR Smith: JR Smith (hamstring) questionable for G3

The Cleveland Cavaliers hope to win their sixth straight meeting with the Indiana Pacers overall Thursday and take a 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series as small road chalk.

However, the defending champions, following a pattern that began late in the regular season, almost gave away an 18-point lead in the fourth as the Pacers crawled within four in the final minute before Cleveland closed it out at the foul line.

As the series shifts to IN for Games 3 and 4, it's do-or-die for Paul George and the Pacers. However, after losing another semi-tight (at least in the waning moments) contest in Game 2, in enters Game 3 down 2-0. The Cleveland Cavaliers have won the first two games of this series, and now the series moves to Indianapolis. I think he did a good job of that (in Game 2). At one point, cameras appeared to catch Pacers coach Nate McMillan telling Stephenson to calm down.

Stephenson rejoined the Pacers in March, just a couple weeks before the start of the playoffs.

"I don't like sitting out", he said Wednesday. "We were moving, we were flying around and we were communicating on coverages and allowed us to have that third".

Still, George's sharp, direct complaints after the first two games caught some off guard. "If two of the three guys play well and we get somebody to pitch in off the bench, we're pretty unstoppable".

If they're going to win a game, or even tie it, they're certainly going to have to clamp up on defense. Iman Shumpert, who sat out the opener, replaced Smith and played 20 solid minutes. "That emotion comes out on him, but he's just got to channel that, and put it towards making effort plays on the court and doing whatever he needs for us to succeed".

"Maybe getting a little exhausted", Lue said.

In his 12th postseason run in 14 seasons, James is averaging 28.5 points, 10.0 assists and 8.6 rebounds in 42.5 minutes, up from 26.4 points, 8.7 assists and 8.6 rebounds in 37.8 minutes during the regular season.

Another reason why there should be optimism for the Pacers is that role players usually play better at home. George said he should have taken the shot. C Al Jefferson was active, but didn't play. He also dropped a 3-pointer and gave Cleveland energy.

"We've been through it as a team", Smith said. "It wasn't called for the first half of this game because of the circumstances", James said.

Cavaliers: James (357) jumped Magic Johnson (358) for third place in career playoff steals and hopped Robert Parish for eighth in rebounds. Stephenson had a strong workout with Cleveland in January before latching on with in, but coach Tyronn Lue said his recent injury issues - groin surgery and an Achilles issue - dissuaded the Cavs from signing him.

Point spread: The Cavaliers opened as 3.5-point favorites; the total is at 211.5, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.

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