The Cavaliers will host the Memphis Grizzlies in Cleveland on Monday for the two teams’ second game in four days, and the last matchup with each other this regular season.
Despite playing without leading scorers Collin Sexton and Darius Garland on Thursday night in Memphis, Cleveland scored a 94-90 win. Monday marks the Cavaliers’ homecoming from a season-long, six-game road swing that ended with a 100-90 loss at Milwaukee, two nights after their win over the Grizzlies.
Cleveland limped to the finish of its road trip with an injury-depleted roster. In addition to Garland, who has missed a week with a right shoulder sprain, and Sexton, who is day-to-day after turning an ankle last Wednesday at Orlando, the Cavaliers have also been without Dante Exum, Kevin Love, Dylan Windler and Matthew Dellavedova.
Absences in the backcourt have piled up in particular, giving opportunities for others on the Cleveland roster to make impacts. Damyean Dotson made the start in Sexton’s place against Milwaukee and scored a season-high 21 points.
“He was great tonight. I feel bad because I’m running him into the ground, playing him so many minutes,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said in his postgame press conference on Saturday. “But he never complains, he never asks to come out. He just keeps fighting.
“Character-wise, skill-level, he’s the type of person we want to have around here,” Bickerstaff added of Dotson, who played 35 minutes at Memphis and 41 at Milwaukee.
Dotson’s backcourt mate Isaac Okoro returned to action on Wednesday after missing two weeks due to COVID-19 protocols. He was crucial in the win at Memphis, putting down a dunk and following it up with a chase-down blocked shot in the game’s final 30 seconds.
Andre Drummond, who led Cleveland past the Grizzlies with 22 points and 15 rebounds, followed it up Saturday with the franchise’s first 20/20 game since 2012. He scored 26 points and grabbed 24 rebounds against the Bucks.
Lineup concerns are not unique to the Cavaliers in Monday’s matchup. Memphis has been without scoring and assists leader Ja Morant since Dec. 30. The reigning Rookie of the Year sustained an ankle injury that could sideline him for another three weeks.
Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee), Justise Winslow (hip), Jontay Porter (knee) and John Konchar (ankle) are all listed as day-to-day. Jonas Valanciunas was pulled from the Grizzlies’ 115-110 win over Brooklyn on Friday due to health and safety protocols, though he announced on Twitter on Sunday that did not test positive for COVID-19.
“False alarm. Everyone around me is healthy and I am cleared to get back on the court. Thank you all for the support,” he posted.
Teammate De’Anthony Melton said in Friday’s postgame news conference that the team must stay vigilant.
“There’s so many variables that can happen, especially now with this whole thing and protocols and like that,” Melton said. “Everybody really has to stay ready now because players are going down three to four at a time so you never know what can happen.”
Melton scored 14 points off the bench against the Nets, joining Dillon Brooks with 24 points and Brandon Clarke with 21 to push the Grizzlies over the century mark for the first time in four games.
Cleveland has faced its own scoring deficiencies amid its rash of injuries. The loss at Milwaukee marked the seventh consecutive game in which the Cavaliers fell short of 100 points.
–Field Level Media