The Cleveland Cavaliers might go into a crucial battle against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday without a key member, as Darius Garland is questionable to play after sustaining a neck strain in their Saturday matchup versus the Los Angeles Lakers.
Garland appeared to get injured after a collision with Lakers youngster Max Christie in the first quarter of the contest. He ended up playing just 14 minutes and missed the second half. To add insult to injury, the Cavs lost the game 121-115 to fall to 3-5 at home.
If its star point guard indeed misses the Raptors bout, Cleveland will have to rely more on Donovan Mitchell to create scoring opportunities. Caris LeVert may also be tasked with more ball-handling duties. He has proven capable of doing so, as evidenced by his team-high eight assists against Los Angeles.
Notably, the Cavs have gone 2-3 without Garland in the lineup this season. The 23-year-old missed the squad’s first three losses of the season (all of which came at home) against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks.
This season, Garland has not been playing up to the standard he previously set for himself. He is averaging just 19.0 points per contest after recording more than 20 points per game in each of the previous two campaigns. His assists are down as well, as he is dishing out just 5.5 dimes per match, his lowest since his rookie season.
Even so, the fifth-year pro is key to the organization’s hopes of making it back to the playoffs this season.
Unfortunately, with or without Garland, the Cavs are already handicapped as it is. The team’s injury report shows that point guard Ty Jerome and Dean Wade are out, as both are dealing with right ankle sprains. Meanwhile, Emoni Bates and Isaiah Mobley are in the G League as part of their two-way deals. Ricky Rubio is also out as he still is away from the team.
A silver lining for Cleveland is that rookie Craig Porter Jr. has been performing well recently. In his last five contests, he’s averaging 14.4 points and 4.8 assists per match while shooting 59.6 percent from the field. His fine play has led head coach J.B. Bickerstaff to say he has earned the chance to be a permanent part of the rotation.