Injuries have been a big issue for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. At times, key players, including Kevin Love and Larry Nance jr. have missed significant time due to injuries, and on Friday night against the Wizards, Cleveland was missing six players, but they did get their leading scorer in Collin Sexton back, who missed the last three games with a concussion.
These two teams met last Sunday in Washington, and the Wizards defeated the Cavs 119-110.
On Friday night, Cleveland(21-42) competed in the first half against Washington(29-34) and trailed 58-52 at the break, but things went south when their point guard Darius Garland left the game early in the third quarter and did not return after rolling his ankle. Following Garland’s exit, Cleveland was outscored 33-16 in the quarter, and a six-point lead turned into a 23-point lead at the end of three for Washington, and ultimately, the Wizards would defeat the Cavaliers 122-93 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
The Wizards have won two straight and 10 of their last 11 games, while the Cavs have dropped five consecutive games.
Bradley Beal led Washington with 19 points, and Russell Westbrook had his NBA record-setting 14th triple-double in the month of April with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. Sexton had a game-high 22 points for Cleveland.
Garland is Cleveland’s floor general, and without him, Cleveland’s offense sputtered, which Cavs head coach J.B Bickerstaff discussed after the game.
“Darius is our lead guard,” he said. And it’s disappointing, obviously, for him having the injury, but he’s our leader; he’s the spirit of what we do, and he was playing at an extremely high level. It’s sad; it’s disappointing that the injury happened at this point, or at any point because his confidence was growing. He’s playing so well. The best month of his career by far… Obviously, him not being there hurt us a lot.”
Also, Love, who had 10 rebounds on Friday night, did not take a shot and ended the game with zero points in 22 minutes. According to Bickerstaff, Cleveland has to keep Love involved on the offensive end of the floor.
“I think he’s(Love) an important piece of what we do on that end of the floor,” Bickerstaff said. “So, we gotta find ways to get him involved, find ways to get him shots.”
At this point, the Cavaliers are going through the motions. They are not a healthy team, and they are not playing good basketball right now. However, this season was not about winning, it was about the development of young talent, and Cleveland must continue to do that in the final nine games of the season.
The Cavaliers continue their five-game homestand on Saturday night against the Miami Heat.