Cavs battle Wizards on Sunday, look to help play-in chances

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland brings the ball up the floor. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland brings the ball up the floor. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

Sunday’s matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers (21-38) and Washington Wizards (26-33) figured to be a high-scoring affair with a ton of ball movement, that is, until the ruling out of Collin Sexton due to a concussion reportedly sustained in Friday’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

That put a damper on the potential spotlight of this late season showdown between Washington’s supremely talented backcourt consisting of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal and Cleveland’s burgeoning backcourt featuring Sexton and Darius Garland.

The Cavs will still look to help their play-in chances with a W in DC on Sunday, though.

Westbrook, firmly entrenched in his first season in DC, may not have impacted the win-loss column as much as some Wiz fans would have hoped, but he is still among the league’s best guards. He continues to amaze and is averaging a triple-double yet again with season totals of 22.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 11.0 assists.

Beal, the NBA’s second leading scorer (31.1 points per game) is still the face of the franchise and is a three-level threat on a nightly basis. The three-time All-Star will look to build upon his 33-point performance in a victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder as he jockeys for the scoring title behind only the greatest shooter of all-time in Stephen Curry.

Garland, Cleveland’s floor general, is in the midst of possibly his best stretch of the season thus far as during the month of April (11 games) he is averaging 20.8 points, 7.1 assists, and is shooting a scorching 42.9 percent from three-point range. With the “Young Bull” missing tonight’s game, look for Garland to come out of the gate aggressive early and often.

Speaking of Sexton, his absence will definitely hurt the Cavs chances of walking away with a victory, but it will provide Cleveland with another opportunity to experiment with different rotations and perhaps we could see the team rolling out the oversized lineup of Garland-Isaac Okoro-Dean Wade-Kevin Love-Jarrett Allen to start the game.

Combine that with the recent loss of Taurean Prince (ankle surgery reportedly likely to come soon) and you have the makings of a very interesting lineup. Matthew Dellavedova, Larry Nance Jr., Wade, Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens are all potential candidates to receive more minutes moving forward.

With Prince missing the rest of the season and Sexton possibly missing multiple games, this stretch may be the last significant opportunity for certain players on the roster (Osman, Delly) to make a lasting impression on the coaching staff.

Washington isn’t without their fair share of injury woes as they are without big man Thomas Bryant, rookie Deni Avdija and second-year forward Rui Hachimura. This hasn’t hampered their shot at the play-in tournament as of late though as they are riding a seven-game win streak and currently occupy the Eastern Conference’s “coveted” 10th seed.

The two teams are separated by a wide five-game margin and with only 13 contests left to boot, the margin for error in regards to the Cleveland-based team is nearly non-existent.

If the Cavs have any hopes for making the play-in at this point, they will need to go on an unprecedented run to close the season and get a little help along the way as the conference’s lower tier beat up on each other.

Prediction: Cavs win by the score of 116-113 and end Washington’s win streak at seven games.

How about the standout performer in this one?

Player of the Game: Garland with 26 points, seven assists and three rebounds.

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We’ll ultimately see what plays out in this one, but either way, Garland’s emergence has been very encouraging.