Cavs’ backcourt absences mounting with Wizards set to visit


The Cleveland Cavaliers’ backcourt will be severely depleted for Saturday night’s home game against the Washington Wizards.

Already playing without All-Star point guard Darius Garland (sore lower back) and newly acquired swingman Caris LeVert (sprained right foot), the Cavaliers learned Friday they will be without backup point guard Rajon Rondo for two weeks for a sprained right big toe.

Making his first start of the season for Cleveland, Rondo had 12 points and nine assists in a 106-103 loss at Detroit on Thursday. He was injured in the fourth quarter, and an MRI on Friday revealed the sprain.

Brandon Goodwin, who had 15 points and five assists against the Pistons, will likely start at point guard. The other point guard on the roster, Kevin Pangos, was waived on Feb. 19.

Swingman Cedi Osman might be pressed into playing some point guard, as he has in the past.

Garland took part in All-Star festivities last weekend, but coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the plan was for him to rest coming out of the break. He has missed six of the last nine games.

LeVert sprained his right foot when he stepped on a teammate’s foot in practice. After an MRI, the Cavs say he will be sidelined for as long as two weeks.

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“We can’t afford to make excuses,” Bickerstaff said after the Pistons game. “This was disappointing. We didn’t do a good job collectively.”

He said his team wasn’t “locked in,” something that plagued them in losses at Atlanta and Philadelphia before the All-Star break.

The Wizards have health issues also, and they might be a bit winded. They dropped a 157-153 double-overtime contest to the visiting San Antonio Spurs on Friday.

Forward Kyle Kuzma had a game-high 36 points for the Wizards, who have yet to see forward/center Kristaps Porzingis (bone bruise in right knee) since he was acquired from Dallas on Feb. 10.

Porzingis, whom the Mavericks dealt in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans, has missed the last 11 games, dating back to his time in Dallas.

“We have to wait to see how he responds,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “We don’t want to rush it.”

He said Porzingis has been doing a little more at each practice since coming to Washington. Unseld said it could be weeks or months before he joins the lineup.

Kuzma’s role won’t change much when Porzingis plays, Unseld said.

“We’ll continue to use him in a lot of different spots,” he said.

The Wizards have beaten Cleveland in two of their three meetings this season, winning 97-94 on Nov. 10 and 110-93 on Dec. 30. The Cavs won at Washington on Dec. 3, 116-101.

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In a separate trade, the Wizards received guard Ish Smith and center Vernon Carey Jr. from Charlotte for Montrezl Harrell on Feb. 10.

Unseld called Smith a “galvanizing force.”

“He’s a gnat,” he said. “You can’t chase him. He’s relentless chasing the ball.”

Washington is already playing without All-Star guard Bradley Beal, who is out for season with left wrist surgery.

The Cavs, meanwhile, welcomed back forward Lauri Markkanen, who had 22 points and six rebounds against Detroit. He had missed the previous 11 games with an ankle injury.

Cleveland’s defense has been good all season and is among the league’s stingiest teams, allowing 102.6 points per game. The Cavs have held opponents under 100 points in six consecutive home games.

The Cavaliers will be playing their first home game since Feb. 9. They are 13-2 in their last 15 home games, including seven in a row.

–Field Level Media



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