The health of two key players could be crucial for the Cleveland Cavaliers when they visit the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
Power forward Kevin Love, who leads the Cavs in scoring (18.2) and rebounding (12.1) while ranking second in assists (2.9), sat out Cleveland’s 123-105 loss at the New York Knicks on Monday night due to back tightness. It was the first game Love has missed this season.
The Cavaliers were also without backup post player Larry Nance Jr., who has a sprained left thumb.
Nance, who is averaging 9.5 points and 7.0 rebounds, has missed two straight games.
It is not yet known if Love and/or Nance will be ready to face the Heat, but Cavaliers coach John Beilein surely felt their absences against New York.
“We were missing two really good players, and we’re not really deep as it is,” Beilein said. “We were missing one of our best, if not our best player (Love), and our power sixth man (Nance). That’s a really big difference.”
The Cavaliers, who are on a four-game losing streak, are 2-5 on the road this season, adding to their challenge.
Miami, which beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland 108-97 last Thursday night, is 5-0 at home this season and enters Wednesday on a three-game win streak overall.
The Heat have been led this season by 6-7 wing Jimmy Butler, Miami’s biggest offseason acquisition. After missing Miami’s first three games on paternity leave, Butler has proven his worth, leading the Heat in scoring (18.4), assists (7.2) and steals (2.8). He is also averaging 5.8 rebounds and making 82.4 percent from the foul line.
Butler, who has earned a reputation as an unselfish star, nearly had a triple-double in Miami’s most recent game, providing 16 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds in a 109-94 home win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.
But Butler refuses to take all the credit for Miami’s 9-3 record, which ties the best 12-game start in team history.
“We share the ball well,” Butler said of his Heat teammates. “We’ve got guys who can get the ball to the basket, and that always helps.”
Miami had 31 assists in that win over Cleveland last Thursday, earning praise from Beilein.
“Most winning teams have high assist numbers,” he said.
Miami’s unselfish play has reached even to its center, Bam Adebayo, who is averaging a double-double with 13.9 points and 10.5 rebounds but also 4.6 assists.
Adebayo is one of four Heat players whose assists totals are higher than Cavaliers leader Darius Garland (3.3).
The Heat, however, do have some injury concerns heading into Wednesday’s game.
Backup point guard Goran Dragic, who is second on the team in points (16.1) and assists (5.1), missed Saturday’s game due to an illness. It is possible he could return for Wednesday’s game.
Two Miami players who will be out on Wednesday barring some late change of plans are point forward Justise Winslow (concussion) and wing Derrick Jones (left hip). Neither has yet been cleared to practice, although Jones is closer to a return than Winslow.
–Field Level Media