Injury-Plagued Cavs Need to Figure Things Out Soon
The Cavs got the injury bug at the wrong time. Continuing their road trip in Portland, the Cavs were without several key players. Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Cedi Osman all remained out with their respective injuries and Larry Nance Jr. was ruled out with a hamstring issue. Thankfully, Rodney Hood was back after missing two games with a sore back.
But the injuries mounted on this roster have a deeper impact than on just one loss against the Blazers. It is quite apparent that the Cavs are not performing to their usual standards, as they sit at 4th place in the Eastern Conference. Every win matters from this point forward and if they let too many games slip away, the Cavs may never enter a playoff matchup with home-court advantage. In addition, none of the trade deadline acquisitions have gotten a chance to play alongside Kevin Love, who is expected to be the secondary scoring option and primary rebounder upon his return. With that being said, any Cavs loss before Love’s returns is probably going to be due to the lack of healthy talent surrounding LeBron. It’s unfair to cite the lack of effort from this squad after every loss; the Cavs are simply not fully operational until Love returns.
Regular season adversity is not a new term for the Cavs.
Remember last season’s 23-23 stretch before winning 10-straight playoff games? The only difference here is that I believe last season’s struggles were an issue of effort, while this year the Cavs are still adapting to the roster and settling their players into the right spots. Nevertheless, I am optimistic that the Cavs will work out their kinks upon Love’s arrival. His return will alleviate much of the pressure put on the offense to score, perhaps giving guys an incentive to focus more on the defensive end. Love will also improve the Cavs’ poor rebounding numbers, which are mainly made up from Nance Jr. and LeBron.
In the meantime, the Cavs are greatly going to miss Nance Jr. under center. Without him, it is up to Zizic to man the middle, contest inside shots and set screens. Nance Jr. has registered the best plus/minus for all Cavs players when alongside LeBron, meaning that someone else is going to have to step up as LeBron’s go-to man in his absence. Without Osman and Thompson, the Cavs should continue to see production levels from Jeff Green, Jordan Clarkson, and Jhn Holland that we may not see as much of once everyone is healthy. If the Cavs can perform well under a “next man up” mentality, then the Cavs could maintain their seeding and head into the playoffs with confidence. Otherwise, the Cavs could have a squad of uncertainty and inconsistency when it matters most.