The Cleveland Cavaliers return home to start a three-game homestand against the COVID-impaired Atlanta Hawks on Friday.
It will be the second of four meetings between the teams this year. Cleveland won 101-95 on Oct. 23 when they went on a 21-0 run that began late in the second quarter and led to all five starters reaching double figures. The game on Dec. 19 was postponed because of COVID and has yet to be rescheduled. Cleveland has won nine of the last 12 meetings, including two of three in 2020-21.
The Cavs lost to the Washington Wizards 110-93 on Thursday and have dropped three of their last four games. Cleveland was still playing without three players who are in the health and safety protocol and saw their streak of consecutive 100-point games end at 17.
The Hawks opened their six-game road trip on Wednesday with a 131-117 loss in Chicago. It was their second loss to the Bulls in three days and their third straight defeat. Atlanta, whose roster has been decimated by COVID, has dropped 10 of its last 14 and fallen to 12th in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
“We’ve got three-fourths of our team out,” said Atlanta guard Trae Young, who has played two games since missing three games with COVID. “I came to shoot-around not knowing most of my teammates.”
Young scored 26 points in the last game against Chicago to extend his streak of 25-plus points to a career-high 14 games. He leads the league with 16 points-assists double-doubles. Young scored 24 against Cleveland in their first meeting.
Atlanta had 12 players in health and safety protocol for Wednesday’s game and added Chris Clemons and Cameron Oliver to the roster on 10-day contracts. The lack of experienced players forced coach Nate McMillan to use Young, Cam Reddish, Clint Capela and Skylar Mays for extended minutes in an attempt to keep the game close.
“We really don’t have subs for them,” McMillan said. “There are times we’re having to put four or five guys out there who don’t know our system. We’re giving them basic sets.”
The Cavaliers got Ed Davis, Dylan Windler and Lamar Stevens back from COVID, but were still without Cedi Osman and Darius Garland. Jarrett Allen is expected to be available against Atlanta.
The Cavs are also without Ricky Rubio, who injured his ACL on Tuesday against New Orleans and will miss the rest of the season. Cleveland gave rookie Kevin Pangos his first start on Thursday, but the team is looking for a veteran point guard and ESPN reported the Cavs were trying to obtain veteran Rajon Rondo from the Los Angeles Lakers.
“The makeup and character of the guy you bring in is very important,” said Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff. “You have to do your homework.”
Kevin Love continues to produce. He had 24 points and 11 rebounds against the Wizards. Over the last seven games, he is averaging 20.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
–Field Level Media