Only 15 games into the NBA regular season, the Cleveland Cavaliers are dealing with many injuries across the roster. Monday evening against the Boston Celtics, the Cavaliers were without six key players during the fourth quarter; this made a win nearly impossible as the Cavs lost 98-92. Heading into their Monday matchup with the Celtics, Cleveland’s injury report was lengthy. Kevin Love and Lauri Markkanen were still absent due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, Collin Sexton will be out awhile with his knee injury, Lamar Stevens has been out with an ankle sprain and the starting center Jarrett Allen missed Monday evening with an illness.
With the Cavaliers’ injuries, they were without three starters and two rotation players vs. Boston. To make matters worse, the Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Mobley sustained an elbow injury during the second half of action. Mobley was in the locker room for the remainder of the Celtics game and will now miss 2-4 weeks.
Cleveland Cavaliers Rookie Evan Mobley will miss 2-to-4 weeks with right elbow sprain.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 16, 2021
The fact the Cavaliers even hung around with the Celtics—this was a close game down to the last minute— without so many vital pieces was encouraging. Cleveland has a record of 9-6 (which is good considering the difficult schedule), but where do they go from here? The amount of injuries stacking up for the Cavaliers is becoming almost insurmountable.
Can the Cavs Survive, Keeping their Goals Alive?
The Cavs managed to impress without Sexton, Love and Markkanen. Now, the injuries could be too much for the Cavaliers. Mobley’s elbow sprain is a huge hit, his value to the team has been incredible. Cleveland’s overall defense will decline without Mobley’s absurd versatility. Plus, the rookie was beginning to find his offensive game with several impressive showings.
The Wine and Gold can take a sigh of relief with all of Allen, Love and Markkanen returning soon. Allen should be able to return from his illness Wednesday vs. the Nets. In addition, both Love and Markkanen are currently listed as day-to-day as they recondition off of the NBA’s health and safety protocol. At the latest, Love and Markkanen should be able to return by Thursday vs. the Warriors of Monday against Brooklyn. By the way, Cleveland’s next four opponents do them no favors: the Nets, Warriors, Nets and Suns.
Furthermore, Stevens will not be unavailable too long with an ankle sprain. Markkanen’s return will be huge since he can replace Mobley at power forward. One thing is for certain, both Mobley and Sexton will be unavailable for at least a couple of weeks or up to a month or longer. Winning without those two is easier said than done. Cleveland keeping their NBA playoffs goals alive with a difficult schedule through mid-January is going to be a huge challenge.
How the Cavaliers can Continue to Win
If the Cavaliers continue to win with many injuries, J.B. Bickerstaff (the Cavs’ Head Coach) needs to alter the starting lineup. At this point, Dean Wade can no longer start at the small forward spot. He is missing many open shots and needs his role reduced. Cedi Osman should be inserted into the starting lineup with his current level of play. Osman is contributing in a huge way in nearly every facet of the game and is adding consistent outside shooting. Ricky Rubio has continued to be a big part of the Cavs’ success as well. Rubio will need to sustain his play along with Osman.
One Cavalier, in particular, could be a tremendous help: Isaac Okoro. Okoro missed seven games with a hamstring injury early in the season. Since his return, the second-year wing has replaced Sexton at shooting guard in the starting lineup. Okoro has certainly aided Cleveland’s defense, but he must add more on the offensive end. The Auburn product plays hard and fast with special athleticism, he is capable of becoming a solid offensive player. The time is now for Okoro. He did have a better game offensively with 12 points against Boston Monday night, that needs to continue. Okoro becoming a double-digit scorer while Mobley and Sexton are absent would be massive for the Cavs.
Cleveland will need help across the roster with the difficult stretch ahead. It will truly be a team effort as they look to keep making noise around the association. Injuries are challenging the Cavaliers, but they have shown resilience 15 games in. The Cavs have been scrappy this season with an underdog mentality, that role will only increase with more adversity presenting itself.
Featured image courtesy of David Liam Kyle/Getty Images
“From Our Haus to Yours”