Lebron James has missed the Cleveland Cavaliers’ last two games due to an injury he sustained against the Pistons on Friday. In the 99-92 win over Detroit, James twisted his ankle but scored 40 points, collected 13 rebounds and dished out six assists. He went onto miss the Cavs’ game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, which resulted in an 85-92 loss. However, on Monday night they defeated the Spurs 97-95 behind Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams‘ 17 points a piece. Four other Cavs scored in double-digits including Jawad Williams who got the start for Lebron. Coach Mike Brown has stated that he is playing LBJ more than he would like with Lebron playing 42 minutes or more in seven of the last 12 games.
In this recent stretch of games without centers Shaquille O’Neal (right thumb) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Traded to the Wizards in February), J.J. Hickson has really stepped up defensively for the Cavs and has had several nights with double-digit scoring. Shaq is expected to be back by the playoffs after having surgery on his thumb and Cleveland is also expected to resign Ilgauskas on March 22. Hickson will then return to his spot on the bench but has proven to be a go-to player if needed in the future.
However, Antawn Jamison was forced to leave Monday night’s game against the Spurs with a tightness in his back knee. It has been reported that he has had the soreness for most of the season. Jamison has admitted to suffering from similar pain while on the Wizards and that the he was able to improve the condition through rest and rehab. Shooting guard Anthony Parker also exited Monday night’s game with a hand injury.
With the return of Big Z in just under two weeks and a bench that has proven to be serviceable, expect the Cavs to take advantage of resting some of their players whenever possible. Brown has stated that he is not concerned with the Cavs playoff positioning since they entered this week with a five-game lead on the Magic in the East and three over the Lakers for the No. 1 overall playoff seed. Their next game is on Friday against the lowly 76ers but return to action against the Celtics at home on Sunday. The rest of the month seems relatively easy with two games against Detroit, one against Indiana, one in Milwaukee and another against Chicago, which should be a dress rehearsal seeing as they are currently set to play the Bulls in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Rest is essential but so is getting back into the groove of things. This squad hasn’t played fully together since March 11th, which also happened to be their last win in a season high 13-game winning streak. We have already seen once this season what a team can turn into when it develops without one of its main stars when Kevin Martin returned to the Kings from injury. Also, Jamison was signed to add another scoring threat to Cleveland and if he is beat up and sore, he wont do any good. The Cavs need to be ready and healthy for a rough playoffs that will start off against a Bulls team that made history against the Celtics last year in the first round (seven overtimes). In addition, the Atlanta Hawks are a better squad and neither the Magic nor the Celtics will go down without a fight.
On another note, Shaq is now the oldest player in the NBA. His 38th birthday was Saturday and 39-year-old guard Lindsey Hunter was waived by Chicago on Saturday, March 3rd.