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Former Knicks J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert struggling in playoffs

The Cleveland Cavaliers' Iman Shumpert congratulates teammate J.R.

The Cleveland Cavaliers' Iman Shumpert congratulates teammate J.R. Smith after Smith made a three-point basket during the second quarter of a game against the Brooklyn Nets, Wednesday, March 18, 2015, in Cleveland. Credit: AP / Tony Dejak

The way J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert played the first two games of the Cavaliers' series against Boston had to look familiar to Knicks fans.

Smith has struggled to find his shot and Shumpert hasn't been the defensive stopper he was once billed as. But the Cavaliers have been able to overcome that against Boston because they have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Shumpert started for the Knicks and usually guarded the best perimeter player. Smith was the sixth man often looked at as the second scoring option behind Carmelo Anthony.

They were traded together in January to Cleveland, where Smith starts and is a fourth option and Shumpert comes off the bench. In this first-round series that the Cavaliers lead 2-0, Shumpert was on the floor at the end of both games.

"We lean on his defense," coach David Blatt said. "He's going to be a factor for us one way or another, as is J.R., most certainly. We depend on J.R. as a scorer and as a two-way player."

Smith has been better defensively than offensively in this series that resumes Thursday nightin Boston. He had five steals in Tuesday's 99-91 win and prevented some fast breaks. But Smith shot 3-for-12, including 1-for-8 on three-pointers, and had seven points.

"I shoot better in my sleep," Smith said. "It's all right, though. It's only one game."

Actually, it's two. Smith is 6-for-21 and 3-for-15 on three-pointers and averaging 8.0 points. In 16 playoff games for the Knicks, he shot 32.6 percent (24.5 percent on threes) and averaged 13.6 points.

Shumpert is only 2-for-7 with nine points and 11 rebounds, and he and the rest of the Cavaliers have had trouble containing quick guard Isaiah Thomas, who is averaging 22 points.

Shumpert considers defending Thomas a challenge, and looks forward to it. If the Cavaliers advance to face the Bulls, he likely will see time on Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Shumpert's high-profile teammates believe in him.

"Shump brings in a bolt of energy," James said. "His defensive mentality, he can defend one through four, whatever assignment he has he's going to lock in on that."

After hearing his name in trade rumors the past three years with the Knicks, Shumpert feels relieved that he doesn't have to deal with that anymore. He also relishes being back in the postseason.

"I guess it's cool now knowing I can't get traded," Shumpert said. "Right now it's all-out focus on winning games.

"I'm just happy to be playing basketball still. With the year ending for a lot of different teams, I'm just glad we're still in the chase."

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