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Another day, another potential injury for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The team announced Saturday that starting point guard George Hill underwent an MRI for his ailing back and is questionable for Game 4 of of the first-round series with the Indiana Pacers, set for Sunday night.
The Pacers lead the series, 2-1, after a 92-90 come-from-behind win in Game 3 on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Hill, who scored 13 first-half points in the loss, departed after only 30 seconds in the fourth quarter when he experienced soreness in his back, which he originally experienced after being fouled on an illegal screen by Trevor Booker of the Pacers in Game 1.
Sources: MRI on Cavaliers guard George Hill's back revealed nothing major. Hill is expected to receive treatment for back spasms and listed as questionable for Game 4 on Sunday.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 21, 2018
While Hill was hurting and after he departed Game 3, LeBron James handled the ballhandling responsibilities, playing the entire second half, with Jordan Clarkson also playing some point.
After scoring 47 points in the first half, Cleveland managed only 12 in the third quarter and 33 in the second half.
“I thought their pressure bothered us,” Lue said after the game. “Losing G-Hill with four minutes to go in the third quarter, he tried to come back in the fourth and we had to get him right back out. He really did a good job of attacking the paint. I think he was the ballhandler we needed just to keep LeBron off the ball so he didn’t have to do so much. That kind of hurt us.”
Clarkson, the NBA’s second-leading scorer off the bench during the regular season, scored only two points on 1-of-4 shooting in 20 minutes. He has scored only 10 points total in the first three games.
Hill’s backup, veteran Jose Calderon, did not get off the bench in Game 3. That could change in Game 4, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said Saturday. Cleveland has been outscored by 12 points in the 23 minutes Calderon played in Games 1 and 2. He has shot just 2-of-7, turned the basketball over three times and committed six fouls.
“Jordan came in, he’s been coming in at that spot in the rotation. It’s hard to try and put a guy in in the fourth quarter to try to say, ‘Save the team’ when he hasn’t played that whole three quarters,” Lue said Saturday, referring to Calderon. “But that’s part of the game, it’s the playoffs. To put Jose in that tough spot, I didn’t want to do that. Right now, G-Hill is getting an MRI on his back to see what’s going on, so we’ll see going forward. So you might be seeing Jose.”
As for Clarkson, who averaged 13.9 points during the regular season off the bench, Lue credited the Pacers for the job they are doing on him as he is playing in the playoffs for the first time in his career.
“I think the (Pacers’ defensive) pressure is speeding him up a little bit,” Lue said. “But I just need him to be aggressive attacking the basket. I thought he did that. Cory Joseph got a charge and the one time he bobbled the ball, but just keeping aggressive in pick and rolls and drags. Just telling him to get downhill and just play his game.
“If he’s not making the shots or scoring the basketball, if he’s playing the way he’s capable of playing, that’s all we care about.”