J.R. Smith returns to lineup tonight, Cavs unsure whether there will be playing time restrictions

INDIANAPOLIS — The Cleveland Cavaliers will have starting shooting guard J.R. Smith for Game 3 tonight. 

Smith injured his left hamstring during the first half of Monday’s win, forcing him to sit out the entire second half. But he was able to practice fully on Wednesday before the team left for Indiana and then participated in shootaround Thursday morning at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. 

A little more than an hour before tipoff, head coach Tyronn Lue wasn’t sure whether there would be any restrictions on Smith’s playing time. Lue needed to have a chat with trainer Steve Spiro before making a final determination on that. 

“Defensively, just challenge Paul George, make his offensive life miserable,” Lue said of Smith’s role. “Just try to make his shots hard, compete. He’s going to make some shots, and some tough shots at that, but just making him work for everything he gets. No easy baskets. Not falling asleep, losing him in transition and just bringing that defensive tenacity he brought in Game 1.”

With Smith back in the lineup, Iman Shumpert’s playing time remains a question. He didn’t play the first six quarters of the series before Smith’s injury created the opportunity he was waiting for Monday. 

“You always have to keep guys ready in the playoffs,” Lue said. “You could play 30 seconds or 30 minutes and it could be the biggest 30 seconds you ever played. Shump is ready to go after not playing in Game 1. He’s earned himself (a chance) to play a little bit more. Seeing it the other night was really good.”

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