CLEVELAND — J.R. Smith has more fouls than points through the first two games of the NBA Finals, leading to speculation that he might not start Game 3. But Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he’s not making a change.
Lue was adamant that he would stay with Smith. The former Knick’s confidence remains high and his bravado hasn’t waned despite his disappearing act in Games 1 and 2.
“I have the same confidence level I’ve had since I started to play this game,” Smith said. “I feel like I can make any and every shot. I feel like I’m going to. I’m feeling like I’m going to play well every time I step on the floor. Obviously that doesn’t happen all the time.
“My confidence is never dwindled, lacked, chipped away at. I feel like when I’m on the floor, ’Bron is ’Bron, but I feel like I’m one of the best players on the floor at all times.”
The Cavaliers face a 2-0 hole against the Golden State Warriors heading into Game 3 on Wednesday night. They need more than this from Smith: 42 minutes, 1-for-6 shooting and three points in the two games. He has no assists, two rebounds, five fouls and three turnovers.
After he went scoreless in Game 2, there were reports that the Cavaliers may go with another ex-Knick Iman Shumpert because of his defense. But Lue said after practice Tuesday he was sticking with Smith.
“I’m not making a change,” Lue said.
Something has to change for the Cavaliers or this will be a quick series. Lue wouldn’t address specific questions about the rotation. But the Cavaliers are nearing desperation mode against this loaded Warriors team.
“It doesn’t really affect me how other people see it,” said Smith, who averaged 8.6 points in the regular season. “Start or don’t start or whatever the speculation may be. It’s about us. If I start, I start. If I don’t, I don’t. If I come out and make shots, I make shots. If I don’t, I don’t. I have to figure out to do something else to help our team. It’s not just about scoring. It’s the confidence of playing well, period.
“It’s all about winning. Whether Shump starts and we win, I’ll keep coming off the bench, or if we win when I’m in there, then we’ll keep the same. I don’t look at it as a personal vendetta. I just want to win. So it doesn’t matter.”
Smith said he tries to block out any and all talk about his play or the series from everyone outside of the Cavaliers’ locker room, even his wife.
“As crazy it sounds, I don’t listen to my wife when it comes to certain things,” Smith said. “It’s no disrespect to her. This is 15, 18, 19 guys with coaches that we’re trying to achieve something and we all have to be on the same page. That one person on the outside or family member or whatever is not good for our team. We know what we want to accomplish. We know how to accomplish it. It’s just a matter of us going out there and doing it and believing in one another instead of listening to somebody else.”
But Smith said his wife had one suggestion that he’ll try to follow.
“She had a great idea,” Smith said. “She told me every time I touch it, shoot it.”