The could be a Tristan Thompson sighting for the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight.
Coach Tyronn Lue said it’s his intention to give Thompson his first real minutes of the series in Game 4 tonight at shootaround today in preparation for Game 4 tonight against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life FIeldhouse.
Thompson, a starter on the Cleveland teams that have made three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, played only two minutes of garbage time in a 98-80 loss in Game 1. He did not play in Games 2 and 3.
Cleveland trails the series, 2-1.
“I can trust him,” Lue said of Thompson. “I think Tristan can also get us extra possessions offensive rebounding. He brings toughness and that’s been a problem last couple games. I think he brings toughness, rebounding, defense.”
However, that plan could go out the window if George Hill can’t answer the bell tonight. The Cavaliers’ starting point guard is listed as questionable for tonight because of back spasms, which limited him in the second half of Game 3.
Though an MRI on Saturday showed nothing major is wrong, Hill’s status, though listed as questionable, is very much in doubt. If he cannot go, veteran Jose Calderon will start at point guard.
That could have a ripple effect as Lue might need to continue to play Jeff Green as an extra ballhandler with the first team if Calderon struggles as he did in Games 1 and 2.
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. He did not play in Game 3.
During the regular season, when Calderon started, the Cavaliers were 23-9.
If Calderon can right the ship, it will allow Lue to stick with his normal rotation with Jordan Clarkson coming off the bench, with Thompson taking Green’s minutes. If Calderon falters as he did in the first two games, Green would be necessary, which would limit Thompson’s opportunities.
The 26-year-old Thompson had arguably the worst season of his career, averaging a career-low 5.8 points in 20.2 minutes per game. For his career, he is averaging 8.0 points and 9.3 rebounds in the postseason, while also showing the ability to switch one through five on defense, a staple of Lue’s defensive scheme.
Thompson’s aggressiveness and fearlessness, trademarks of his playoffs past, are qualities the Cavaliers could very much use.
“I think it’s infectious,” Lue said. “That’s what he’s been bringing for us. I would love to get him out there.”