Friday, January 19, 2018
Sports

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MIAMI — The Pacers' Paul George will play in tonight's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final, which comes as no surprise to the Heat.

They were expecting him there all along.

The Pacers announced Friday night that George has been cleared "to return to normal basketball activity," a decision made three days after he was concussed in Game 2.

The Pacers consulted with Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, the NBA's director of concussion management, throughout George's concussion protocol, they said. George will participate in today's shootaround, and "barring any unforeseen complications, he will play."

So that settled one lineup issue. Another involved the Heat.

Greg Oden — whose last postseason appearance was April 30, 2009 — may be inserted into the Heat rotation after showing Miami's coaches in recent days that back issues that have slowed him for weeks may be gone. Coach Erik Spoelstra suggested the 7-foot center could get minutes, which would almost certainly come against Indiana center Roy Hibbert.

"If coach needs me, I'm ready to play," Oden said. "I'm definitely ready whenever he needs me."

The series is tied at a game apiece, with Miami grabbing the homecourt edge by rallying for an 87-83 win at Indianapolis on Tuesday. The Pacers had several players limping and ailing late in the game, with George's concussion the most notable malady.

"It's been a rough two days," said George, who also said this was his first concussion and most of the effects had passed.

The back of George's head was struck by the knee of Heat guard Dwyane Wade as both tried to get control of a loose ball during the fourth quarter. George remained in the game but was basically a nonfactor the rest of the way. The concussion came to light after the Pacers forward revealed after the game that he briefly "blacked out."

"I probably should have kept that to myself," George said. "It just made a mess. That's something that, going forward, just keep that between myself and the training staff."

Miami hasn't even considered the possibility that George won't play in Game 3.

"Why wouldn't he?" Miami's LeBron James said.

Spurs-Thunder: Serge Ibaka was upgraded to day to day after his strained left calf showed improved movement and stability, and a significant decrease in swelling, the Thunder said.

Oklahoma City has missed the 6-foot-10 forward badly as San Antonio has raced to a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference final. Game 3 is Sunday.

Ibaka was injured in the clinching Game 6 win against the Clippers in the West semifinals and hasn't played since. He is averaging 12.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in the playoffs, and is shooting 62 percent from the field.

"His progress in the last several days has been surprising," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. "I don't think any of us thought we'd be standing here talking about this. We're grateful that we are."

Oklahoma City's medical staff would like to see Ibaka go through gamelike conditions before allowing him to return, Presti said. He had done only light drills and light shooting.

"We're still focusing on trying to beat the Spurs without him playing," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "That has not changed. I know he's listed as day to day, but he is out until I'm told differently."

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