Heading into the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers looked like they had rock-solid depth at every position on the floor. Unfortunately for their fans and the team itself, the injury bug has bit the Cavs and shaken their foundation. Since the beginning of preseason, Jarrett Allen has been unavailable due to a bone bruise in his left ankle. Allen has missed all four of the Cavs’ preseason games and will miss Cleveland’s first three regular-season contents. Darius Garland, despite playing in the Cavs’ season-opening win, will miss both games in Cleveland’s home-opening back-to-back due to a nagging hamstring injury. Now joining Allen and Garland is Ty Jerome, who will miss Cleveland’s matchup against the Indiana Pacers due to a sprained right ankle.
To add insult to actual injuries, Donovan Mitchell is also questionable for the Cavs against the Pacers due to a sore right hamstring. Mitchell shared postgame after Cleveland’s home-opening loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder that both of his hamstrings were cramping during the closing moments of the game. Mitchell quipped that he needed to do a better job hydrating. However, it was clear that he had received intravenous hydration postgame due to the band-aid on the interior of his left elbow.
If Mitchell is unable to play, it’ll be a huge blow for a Cavs team that’s already lacking depth at key positions. In their loss to Oklahoma City, it was already plenty clear that Garland’s hamstring and the lack of a proper backup point guard could leave Cleveland hamstrung on offense. When Mitchell was on the floor against the Thunder, the Cavs scored 95 points. But, whenever Mitchell rested, Cleveland could only muster a measly ten points. So, if Mitchell cannot play, the Cavs could be in shambles on offense.
For now, Mitchell will likely remain a game-time decision, and Cleveland’s training staff will monitor how he and his hamstring are feeling. If he can play, the Cavs should have a good chance against a Pacers team loaded at nearly every position on the floor. But, if Mitchell cannot go, Cleveland will have to turn to Evan Mobley, Max Strus, and Caris LeVert as the team’s primary creators on offense. It would also mean Dean Wade, Isaac Okoro, Georges Niang, Damian Jones and perhaps even Tristan Thompson will see a healthy increase in minutes.
No matter what, this game won’t be pretty on the offensive side of the ball for the Cavs. Sure, the lack of point guard depth and possibly not having Mitchell muddles things. But they also finished playing a hyper-competitive game against the Thunder less than 24 hours ago without key stars in Garland and Allen. With that added fatigue and Indiana coming off several days of rest, Cleveland must dig deep to secure their first home win this season.
The best way to ensure that the Cavs can, they likely will lean on what worked for them last season. There were plenty of games last year that Cleveland won despite the ugly on-court production they produced. A lot of it was predicated on ensuring opponents had zero second-chance opportunities after playing already rock-solid defense. On the other end of the floor, the Cavs would bring things to a snail’s pace on offense, remaining patient and pragmatic on scoring opportunities, waiting for the best chance to strike.