The Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings are each anxiously awaiting the return of a key player. Sacramento has done a better job of weathering the storm in the meantime.
Cleveland, which has lost eight of 10, hopes a Wednesday night home game against Sacramento – one of the NBA’s worst road teams – will help stop its latest slide.
The Cavaliers own the league’s second-worst record at 7-25, and they’ve also been trying to overcome the absence of Anderson Varejao for the last six games. The NBA’s top rebounder (14.4 per game) has been dealing with a bruised right knee.
He returned to practice on Monday, but remains questionable for Wednesday’s game.
“He looked decent today,” coach Byron Scott said of Varejao, who’s also averaging 14.1 points. “He was moving OK. He still says when he plants to jump is when he feels pain, but it’s nowhere near as severe as it was four or five days ago. Obviously he’s making progress.”
Cleveland recalled forward Samardo Samuels from the NBA Development League on Monday, perhaps to help alleviate the void on its front line. Samuels, who has averaged 3.2 points and 1.6 rebounds in 18 games for the Cavs this season, put up 41 points and 21 rebounds over two games for the Canton Charge.
The Cavaliers got a huge performance from an unexpected source Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a 103-100 loss in Brooklyn, their second straight defeat. C.J. Miles scored a season-high 33 points and hit eight 3-pointers, but did so while Kyrie Irving struggled to 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
“We’re playing hard,” said Miles, who had scored more than 17 points only two previous times this season. “It’s just growing pains and learning how to play.”
Sacramento (11-20) is tied with Washington for the NBA’s worst road record at 1-13, and Wednesday is the second stop on a four-game trip. The Kings suffered their seventh straight defeat away from home in a 103-97 loss at Detroit on Tuesday.
It was also their eighth straight game without Tyreke Evans, who is sidelined with a sore left knee. He did not travel with the team to Detroit and was slated to receive a second opinion on his knee Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Sacramento has held its own without Evans’ 15.1 points per game, going 4-4 with home wins against Golden State, Portland, New York and Boston. The Kings are 5-13 when he plays this season.
They likely could have used Evans’ spark on Tuesday, though, as they were held to nine fast-break points – only the sixth time they’ve been limited to single digits in that category. They averaged 17.5 fast-break points over their previous four games, a span in which they went 3-1.
On Tuesday, they were also without Marcus Thornton, who sprained his ankle in a win over the Celtics in the previous game.
“We were a little slow,” coach Keith Smart said. “We have been playing at a nice fast pace and we were a little heavy-legged, but sometimes that happens when you get out here on the first one of a road trip.”
Cleveland won the teams’ last meeting, 93-92 at home Feb. 19. Irving matched Isaiah Thomas with a game-high 23 points, hitting two free throws with 0.4 seconds left to lift his team.
Thornton had 21 points in that game and is averaging 25.3 – 10.6 above his career mark – over four games against the Cavaliers, but his status is unclear for this contest.