The Cavs ended a rather bumpy week on a high note on Thursday, snapping a 2-game losing skid with a gritty, grind-it-out victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. Finding their identity among a sea of injuries, the Cavs (5-4) have proven they can close out games (mostly-undermanned) with defense, hustle and effort. An additional three players have fallen this week due to injuries including Cavs’ star Colin Sexton who tweaked his ankle on Wednesday in Orlando, resulting in his first missed game as a pro on Thursday on a last-minute scratch. Cleveland and their slim 10-man roster are on the road again tonight taking on the Milwaukee Bucks (5-4) with the bulk of their offense again sidelined. The Bucks dropped a big game at home last night against the Utah Jazz, falling 131-118.
How to watch:
Tip-off is at 8 p.m. on Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Go, and NBA League Pass.
As injuries continue to disrupt their flow, the Cavs are likely to run with the same starting line-up that brought success in Memphis, pending the status of Colin Sexton who is currently listed as questionable. Exum is slated to miss his third game tonight due to injury, which will allow the Cavs to officially apply for the NBA hardship exemption and open up the opportunity to add a 16th player to its roster. If approved, the team will look to add a point guard to the mix as the team is desperately missing a consistently healthy playmaker.
Not much else to say here as the injury list is growing longer than a Cleveland winter.
Cleveland Cavaliers - Injuries
Matthew Dellavedova - Concussion
Damyean Dotson - Ankle
Dante Exum - Calf
Darius Garland - Shoulder
Kevin Love - Calf
Kevin Porter, Jr. - Personal
Collin Sexton - Ankle
Dylan Windler - Hand
Cavs: Damyean Dotson / Isaac Okoro / Cedi Osman / Larry Nance Jr. / Andre Drummond
Bucks: Jrue Holiday / Donte DiVincenzo / Khris Middleton / Giannis Antetokounmpo / Brook Lopez
This section will be updated as we get closer to tip-off and find out more about who is and is not available for Cleveland.
Things to watch for:
- With defense, anything’s possible: Despite injury woes, the Cavs’ defense remains shockingly solid. The Cavs have the #1-rated defense in the league, leading in steals per game (10.9) and forced turnovers (20.1). Expect a grind it out battle tonight —these Cavs just don’t fall easily.
- Rookie with Swagger: Cavs rookie Isaac Okoro continues to excite, bringing consistent hustle and effort to the starting line-up. The 19-year-old came up huge on Thursday down the stretch with a chase-down block and game-clinching dunk to seal the deal. Nine games in, he’s shown he can lockdown on the league’s best playmakers. If the Cavs are looking to win, Okoro may need to put the clamps on Bucks’ SF Khris Middleton, who has started the season playing efficiently averaging 21 points on 54% shooting; 53% from three.
- Battle in the Paint: Cavs Center Andre Drummond struggled offensively during the first-half Thursday failing to create much of a threat in the paint, but he turned things around and finished strong against Memphis with his 9th double-double on the season (22 and 15). Drummond leads the league in offensive (4.3) and defensive (10.0) rebounds per game, but he and the Cavs’ defense will have their hands full in the paint battling Giannis. While Drummond will likely prove victorious in the rebounding battle, his put-backs on the offensive end need to fall early tonight.
- Nance is a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re gonna get with Larry Nance, Jr. but his performance against Memphis on Thursday was a pleasant surprise. Shooting a perfect 7-7 (4-4 from beyond the arc) with 18 points, Nance can force his defenders to pull out and guard him at the perimeter. It will be interesting to watch him battle against Bucks’ Bigs Antetokounmpo and Lopez, a contest likely to be decided with the long ball and defensive schemes.