CLEVELAND: Until Game 7 of the Cavaliers first-round NBA Playoffs series against the Indiana Pacers, center Tristan Thompson’s stat line was nonexistent.

In the prior six games, the 6-foot-10, 238-pound veteran and native of Toronto, home to the Raptors, the team the Cavs will face in the second round of the playoffs beginning Tuesday, scored a grand total of three points in 24 minutes.

Looking for a way to give the team a spark, coach Tyronn Lue turned to Thompson on Saturday morning to let him know he was starting. In what had to be partially a comfort mechanism, the four remaining members of the 2016 championship team, along with guard Kyle Korver, began the game.

“It’s part of being a professional. Gotta stay ready at all times. I give a lot of credit to our coaching staff for the guys who weren’t playing like myself and Cedi [Osman] and [Ante Zizic], we’re coming in early, playing five-on-five, just staying in rhythm because you never know. It’s a long playoff journey … If I’m not on the court, I have to be there to cheer my teammates on and from the sideline be there mentally and keep guys locked in and focused,” Thompson said.

Other than forward LeBron James, Thompson, arguably, provided the most impact with 15 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double in 35 minutes.

To a man, those who spoke of his play used one word to describe Thompson on a day when the Cavs needed a victory — huge.

“Tristan Thompson, the whole series long I just told him to be ready and to come into Game 7, go and to start and to perform the way he did was huge,” Lue said. “Having 15 points and 10 rebounds, he hasn’t played all series, really, and to step up and be in the fire in Game 7 was unbelievable.”

Point guard George Hill, who missed the prior three games with back spasms, stayed in Thompson’s ear throughout the series.

“I been telling him all series long to just wait his turn till his name is called, and when it’s called just be that spark,” Hill said. “And today he was that spark. Phenomenal game, probably the best I seen him play in a while.”

What did Thompson do? Thompson things.

“I think T-Thomp does a great job of setting the screen and holding the screen,” Lue said.

“After that first half, he had five, I think, offensive rebounds, they didn’t want to switch it anymore. He did a good job of holding the man up and LeBron did a great job of getting to the basket.”

James admired what Thompson did to stay ready.

“They’ve been playing five-on-five games, sometimes four-on-four for the guys that don’t play a lot, or is out of the rotation. Double T has been a part of that because he’s been out of the rotation, so he’s keeping his body right, going out and playing,” James said. “He’s a veteran now. It’s his seventh year and he’s a vet, and today was an example of his professionalism — being able to, whenever your number is called, being able to go out and produce.”

Whether he gets extended playing time against the Raptors, who have two notable big men in Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka, remains to be seen.

“Right now, Tristan Thompson was big and he did a great job of setting the tone early,” Lue said. “So, going into the next series, things could be different. You never know. So, we just want to enjoy this win.”

Not to be outdone

Hill returned from his back injury to contribute significantly as well, scoring 11 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out three assists, despite not making a first appearance until 7:12 of the third quarter. Lue saved him for the most advantageous moment.

Hill said he had no worries about whether he’d get into the game.

“No, we still had 24 minutes left. Me and a couple guys just talking about it, I said I don’t care if it’s three minutes or 30 seconds, last play of the game, whatever,” he said. “When I got out there I was just gonna play hard and give it all I got. I wasn’t worried about when, just wanted to do the best I can.”

Hill’s presence provided Lue with exactly what he said he needed in pre-game interviews.

“Getting an extra ball-handler on the floor to help relieve some of the ball pressure from LeBron was huge for us,” Lue said. “He came out and was aggressive, turning the corner on pick and rolls, getting into the paint, making a few good passes to Kevin, couple to LeBron and also for himself, getting to the free-throw line … It was huge for us having his aggressiveness on the floor.”

Love shows range

Forward Kevin Love seemed to break out of his shooting funk. He came into the game shooting 32 percent from the floor and averaging 11 points per game.

He scored 14 Sunday but was 5-of-12 for the game and 3-of-7 on 3-pointers, including a couple of big shots.

“He struggled shooting the ball in the series, we understand that,” Lue said. “I think every guy on this team, every coach on this team believes in Kevin. I just told him continue to take your shots. You know you can make shots. He just stayed the course. It was a tough, physical series for him.”

Love said Thompson’s presence on the court contributed to his success.

“You see what TT brings to the table, especially playing at the five,” Love said, “and everyone going to their natural positions, so that was something that was talked about yesterday, and it’s something that worked well.”

Leaning on him

For much of the game it looked as if LeBron James would play all 48 minutes. But an undisclosed injury sent him to the locker room at the end of the third quarter. After he returned after the start of the fourth quarter, he watched as his teammates went on an 11-2 run to give the Cavs a cushion heading down the stretch and allowing James some much-needed rest. Lue said he was willing to play him the entire game.

“If we needed to, we would’ve … I knew I was going to have to get him out at some point,” he said. “And that’s why you play the minutes throughout the course of the season the way he does, when these types of situations happen, you’re prepared for them. So, he’s used to playing 41, 42 minutes and being able to take it with his body and still be able to produce.”

Looking forward

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert sounded relieved on Twitter after the game. Gilbert was in attendance with his son, Nick, who’s often been considered a good luck charm for the team.

Nick Gilbert underwent eight hours of brain surgery back in February and has been on the road to recovery. He’s apparently well enough to fulfill his rather significant role with the team.

“News of the @cavs death was greatly exaggerated. Making it more special was being there w/gritty Nick G. for the BIG WIN,” Dan Gilbert tweeted. “In just 16 days we are counting on him bringing that same luck to the NBA lottery where he will rep us for the 5th time. Could he defy the odds once again?!”

George M. Thomas can be reached at gmthomas@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ.