CLEVELAND — Ty Lue made changes to the starting lineup for Game 2 on Wednesday night, replacing shooting guard Rodney Hood and small forward Jeff Green with J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver.
It worked wonders — at least on the scoreboard — with the Cavaliers beating the Indiana Pacers 100-97 at Quicken Loans Arena to even their first-round series at a game apiece.
“Ty texted me after (Game 1) and said he was thinking about it,” Korver said. “I told him I’d be ready if he wanted me to. I said it (Tuesday), but I was just ready to go out there and play hard. I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve been able to really compete.
“It was a great atmosphere tonight. It was a game we needed to win. It wasn’t pretty all the time, but we did what we had to do and we got some stops when we needed them.”
“With the way this season was going, it really doesn’t matter at this point,” Smith said of being inserted back into the lineup. “I was comfortable playing sixth man. I was comfortable starting. At this point it’s just, whatever.”
The Cavs got more production in Game 1 out of Smith than from Korver, who played only four minutes in a 98-80 loss and missed all three of his shots — two from 3-point range.
It was the other way around in Game 2, with Korver, who has been dealing with trying times over the past month, including the death of his younger brother, scoring 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range and adding three rebounds in 31 minutes.
“He did a lot of little things,” Lue said of Korver. “If you want to win a championship, you’ve got to do a lot of little things.”
Smith, who was in and out of the starting lineup throughout a subpar regular season, was the only player offering any assistance to LeBron James in Game 1, scoring 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting and making 3 of 6 3-pointers in 29 minutes. But he was relatively quiet in the Game 2 win, taking only five shots and missing both of his 3-point attempts.
“I was kind of (ticked) that I only had (five) shots, honestly,” Smith said. “Fortunately, it worked out. My effort on offense, it’ll come, but this team needs my defense more than anything.
“I’ll take the win more than anything. The postseason is about getting one win at a time, and that’s what we gotta do.”
Smith gave the Cavs a big defensive play at the end as they tried to hold off Indiana, stripping Pacers star Victor Oladipo in the backcourt and laying it in for a 93-86 lead with three minutes left.
“I was just trying to pressure him as much as I (could),” Smith said. “Fortunately I got a hand on it to tip it backcourt. I guess he just thought I was going to wait for him to cross halfcourt with it. I was just trying to pressure him, make him take at least two or three turns and he just coughed it up.”
“It means a lot, just showing the fight and showing the toughness we need,” Lue said of Smith’s effort. “He’s not afraid to hit people. You’ve got to hit people in this league. It’s a contact sport.”
Korver came alive shortly before the end of the first half.
He hit a three with 4:12 left in the second quarter to put the Cavs back up by double digits after the Pacers cut into an 18-point deficit, then hit another one a minute later that made it 52-39.
Korver also opened Cleveland’s second-half scoring with a three.
Like Smith, Korver had a big defensive play at the end, stripping big man Myles Turner, who lost the ball out of bounds with the Pacers trailing 95-89 with 1:20 remaining. But he also blew a switch that left Oladipo wide open for a game-tying 3-pointer with 27 seconds left that was off the mark.
“Every moment is big in the playoffs,” Korver said. “Moments can change games. Moments can create a run. I think that’s on all of our minds. If there’s a loose ball, dive on the floor. If you can take a charge, do that. Playoffs are all about scrapping.
“Whatever it takes, right? Whatever it takes.”
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