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Offseason | NBA Week 26

Cavaliers aim for better effort, host Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Mon Feb 26 5:13pm ET
Field Level Media


The Cleveland Cavaliers snapped a modest two-game skid in their last outing, but their performance wasn't received with open arms by coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

The Cavaliers will look for a better showing on Tuesday night when they host Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving and the Dallas Mavericks.

Cleveland squandered an 11-point lead in the third quarter and overcame a six-point deficit in the fourth of a 114-105 victory over the Washington Wizards on Sunday.

"I thought we just need to be better. I don't think we played to our standard tonight," Bickerstaff said. "I expected more fire from our group after losing two games in a row and having an opportunity to play another one. We've got to get back to playing with that spirit the way we played before the break.

"We've got some tough stretches coming up here, but we've got to be better. I've got to do a better job of getting guys ready to play and our players have to do a better job as well."

Jarrett Allen collected 22 points, 12 rebounds and five assists while Caris LeVert bounced back from a 3-for-21 stretch from the floor over his previous two games to flirt with a triple-double Sunday. LeVert recorded 18 points, a season-high 12 boards and eight assists to lift Cleveland in Donovan Mitchell's return from a two-game absence due to an illness.

LeVert acknowledged Sunday's performance may not have been aesthetically pleasing but it still resulted in victory.

"I think that's what the good teams do -- they find a way - playing good, playing bad and still finding a way to win," he said. "And I think our defense got better in the fourth quarter. There were still holes in it, still possessions where we could have been better, could have talked better. But all in all, we got the win."

LeVert highlighted a 29-point performance by draining a go-ahead 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers' 113-110 win in Dallas on Dec. 27.

Doncic finished with 39 points in that game and added 33 on Sunday, however the Mavericks saw their seven-game winning streak come to a halt with a 133-111 setback to the Indiana Pacers.

Doncic contributes an NBA-best 34.3 points per game to go along with team-leading averages in assists (9.5) and rebounds (8.8).

Irving finished with 29 points on Sunday for Dallas, which was eighth in the Western Conference entering Monday's games.

The Mavericks wrap up their four-game road trip with stops in Toronto (Wednesday) and Boston (Friday).

"A lot of teams are coming after us. When you kind of see the press or the media kind of calling us legitimate contenders, I don't think it's our time right now to be listening to all that noise," Irving said.

"We just got to focus on one game at a time and just get ready for what's ahead of us. A lot of teams are going to be playing their best basketball, and this is that test for us in the season."

Player Notes
Brandon Ingram Thu Apr 18 11:00pm

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (knee) remains off the injury report ahead of Friday's matchup with the Sacramento Kings. The 26-year-old recently returned from a lengthy stint on the shelf because of a knee injury. But he's been limited, combining for 44 minutes in the last two games. However, according to head coach Willie Green, Ingram "had a great practice" on Thursday. With that said, Zion Williamson (hamstring) won't suit up, so the team will need Ingram on the floor. Yet, he'll remain a risky DFS option until his workload increases, which may not be anytime soon.

Zach Collins Thu Apr 18 9:00pm

According to NBA insider Michael Scotto, San Antonio Spurs forward/center Zach Collins (shoulder) will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Collins is no stranger to surgical procedures. However, it's a tough blow, considering the 26-year-old has appeared in at least 63 games in each of the last two seasons. Fortunately, he's expected to be ready to go for the 2024-25 campaign. Collins remained productive last season despite the arrival of Victor Wembanyama, averaging 11.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. He should continue to hold a spot in the rotation and get some starts when the new season begins in October, so he should have value for those in deeper fantasy formats.

Duncan Robinson Thu Apr 18 8:40pm

Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (back) is probable for Friday's meeting with the Chicago Bulls. The sharpshooter missed time to close the regular season but returned for Wednesday's Play-In loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. However, he didn't see any action in that one. With that in mind, the Heat won't have Terry Rozier (neck) or Jimmy Butler (knee) against the Bulls, so Robinson may need to get involved. But If he doesn't see the floor, Delon Wright, Jaime Jaquez Jr., and Nikola Jovic could get more involved on the scoring end.

Terry Rozier Thu Apr 18 8:30pm

Miami Heat guard Terry Rozier (neck) won't play on Friday night versus the Bulls. The former Hornet has played well since getting traded to the Heat. However, he missed time to end the regular season and sat out Wednesday's one-point Play-In loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. As a result, Tyler Herro remained the primary ball handler, finishing with 25 points and nine assists. However, he had five turnovers and had trouble shooting the ball, going 9-for-27 from the field and 4-for-14 from deep. Nonetheless, with Rozier and Jimmy Butler (knee) out, Herro is a lock for DFS contests. In addition, Delon Wright, who had six points, six rebounds, two steals, and one block against the Sixers, remains a viable DFS value option.

Jimmy Butler Thu Apr 18 8:20pm

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (knee) was diagnosed with a sprained MCL. Butler amassed 19 points, five assists, and five steals in Wednesday's one-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. However, he injured his knee during the contest. As a result, Butler will be sidelined for at least a few weeks, which isn't an ideal scenario for the Heat if they manage to pull off the win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday. Nonetheless, Miami also won't have Terry Rozier (neck), meaning Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo could take over as the team's top scorers. There's also room for Duncan Robinson (back), Jaime Jaquez Jr., and Nikola Jovic to see a significant increase in DFS production.

Andre Drummond Thu Apr 18 8:10pm

Chicago Bulls center Andre Drummond (ankle) is questionable for Friday's Play-In meeting with the Miami Heat. Drummond sprained his ankle near the end of the regular season and missed some games. However, he returned for Wednesday's win over the Atlanta Hawks. But the veteran logged only 11 minutes, ending the night with four points, three rebounds, three blocks, and one steal. Nonetheless, Drummond should be on the floor for Friday's pivotal contest. While the ailment makes him a risky DFS option, he'll still have some value for the limited two-game slate. Yet, if Drummond can't play, the Bulls may need to go small, opening the door for Torrey Craig to get more involved.

Ayo Dosunmu Thu Apr 18 8:00pm

Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (quadriceps) is considered questionable for Friday's matchup with the Heat. He missed the last four games of the regular season because of a right quad injury. Fortunately, he returned for Wednesday's Play-In win over the Atlanta Hawks, logging 41 minutes and scoring 19 points. Nonetheless, it would be surprising if Dosunmu isn't on the floor on Friday evening. But if he's unavailable, Alex Caruso (ankle), who is questionable, and Javonte Green would be the favorites to absorb the surplus minutes.

Alex Caruso Thu Apr 18 7:50pm

Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso (ankle) is questionable for Friday's Play-In battle with the Miami Heat. The 30-year-old suffered a "significant" left ankle sprain in Wednesday's win over the Atlanta Hawks, with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that his status versus the Heat is in doubt. Caruso plays a pivotal role in Chicago's rotation, averaging 10.1 points and 1.7 steals during the regular season. Fortunately, it appears he's doing a little better than he was. But Caruso will have some hurdles to clear before he gets the green light to suit up. However, if he's not on the floor, Javonte Green will immediately see a substantial increase in fantasy potential.

Andrew Wiggins Thu Apr 18 10:10am

Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins could be heading toward the exit this summer. The Ringer reports that league sources believe Wiggins will be included in trade talks in the offseason as the Warriors look to improve their roster following a disappointing campaign. Golden State's season ended on Tuesday when the team suffered a blowout loss in the play-in tournament against Sacramento. Wiggins has spent four and a half seasons with the Warriors, winning the NBA championship in 2022. However, he had a rough campaign in 2023-24, and a divorce might be mutually beneficial. Wiggins is coming off the first season of a four-year, $109 million contract.

Damian Lillard Thu Apr 18 10:00am

Milwaukee Bucks point guard Damian Lillard (groin) was able to practice on Wednesday in a limited capacity and is expected to get a full session under his belt on Friday. Lillard is trying to get ready for Game 1 of the team's first-round series against Indiana, which starts on Sunday night. It's unlikely that we will see Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf) in the lineup at the weekend, and Lillard's unavailability would be another huge blow for Milwaukee. However, the star guard appears to be trending in the right direction. If he's cleared to play, we should see fireworks from Lillard, as he'll be expected to do a lot more without Antetokounmpo. Lillard averaged a big 34-point, 10-assist double-double during his last playoff campaign in 2021.

Kawhi Leonard Thu Apr 18 9:50am

Los Angeles Clippers guard/forward Kawhi Leonard (knee) hasn't yet been cleared for five-on-five practice, but head coach Tyronn Lue appears to be confident of having him in the lineup when playoff action starts this weekend. "I'm preparing to have him on the court," Lue said on Wednesday. "We just take it day-by-day. He's getting better and we'll see how much he continues to progress." Leonard missed the final eight regular-season games due to inflammation in his right knee. The Clippers start their first-round series against Dallas on Sunday. Leonard, a two-time Finals MVP, is known as a great post-season performer and has averaged at least 30 points in three of his last four playoff campaigns.

Sam Merrill Thu Apr 18 9:40am

Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Sam Merrill (neck) was a full participant in Wednesday's practice as he continues to work his way back from injury. A neck problem kept him out for the final three regular-season games, but Merrill looks to be on track to return to the lineup for Game 1 of the playoffs against Orlando on Saturday. The 27-year-old averaged a career-high 8.0 points in 17.5 minutes during the regular season, shooting 40.4 percent from downtown. Merrill's shooting ability makes him a good option to have on the bench, but the rotations get tighter during the postseason, and he likely won't see a lot of time on the court.

Dean Wade Thu Apr 18 9:30am

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Dean Wade (knee) isn't expected to play in Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs against Orlando on Saturday. He missed the end of the regular season, making his last appearance on March 8, and Wade wasn't in Wednesday's practice. Wade's absence means more minutes to Georges Niang and Marcus Morris Sr. off the Cavaliers bench. However, neither player doesn't carry any significant fantasy value as long as Evan Mobley stays healthy.

Alex Caruso Thu Apr 18 9:30am

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso suffered a "significant" left ankle sprain in Wednesday's play-in contest against Atlanta and is doubtful to play on Friday versus Miami. Caruso suffered the injury in the first quarter on Wednesday when he collided with teammate Andre Drummond. Following a visit to the locker room, Caruso was able to return to the court, but he didn't see any action since the 9:43 mark in the third quarter. The injury will likely bring Javonte Green into the starting unit on Friday. He was a late addition to the Bulls squad during the regular season but had a productive time with the team. In five starts, Green notched 14.0 points and 8.6 rebounds with 1.2 steals in 29.2 minutes.

Jimmy Butler Thu Apr 18 9:20am

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (knee) is feared to have suffered an MCL injury in Wednesday's 105-104 loss to Philadelphia in the play-in tournament. He was hurt near the end of the first quarter when Philadelphia's Kelly Oubre Jr. landed on Butler's right knee. The Heat star managed to complete the contest and logged a productive 40 minutes, but the injury could sideline Butler for an indefinite period. He's scheduled to have an MRI on the knee on Thursday. Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Caleb Martin should carry a bigger load if Butler is forced to come out of the lineup for Friday's contest against Chicago. Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo will be asked to do more on the offensive end.

Donovan Mitchell Wed Apr 17 11:00pm

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (knee) stated he's "100 percent" heading toward the postseason. The multi-time All-Star has battled a knee injury, limiting him to 10 games since March 1. Fortunately, Mitchell reported he received platelet-rich plasma injections while being closely monitored by the team's medical staff, so he'll be ready to go. The Cavs begin the postseason series with the Magic on Saturday. While DFS managers will continue to be apprehensive about Mitchell's health, it appears the knee issue is behind him, at least for now.

Tyler Herro Wed Apr 17 10:20pm

Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro scored a game-high 25 points in Wednesday's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. He added nine assists and two boards. With Terry Rozier (neck) unavailable, Herro was the team's primary ball handler. While he benefitted from a usage standpoint, he had five turnovers. Even worse, he didn't shoot the ball well, going 9-for-27 from the field and 4-for-14 from deep. It's anyone's guess how much longer Herro will be forced to operate at the one spot. But if Rozier isn't back on the floor for Friday's Play-In game between Chicago or Atlanta, Herro could continue to see an uptick in production. His ceiling could rise even higher if Jimmy Butler (knee) is limited after suffering an injury on Wednesday.

Jimmy Butler Wed Apr 17 10:10pm

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler had 19 points in Wednesday's Play-In loss to the 76ers. The veteran played well in this one, especially on the defensive end, ending the night with five steals. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, with Miami getting one more chance to advance into the playoffs. With that said, Butler took a hard fall in this one and was down on the court holding his right knee, so he'll likely appear on the injury report heading into Friday's matchup. However, barring a setback, he should be out there, although the ailment could limit his productivity.

Joel Embiid Wed Apr 17 10:10pm

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (knee) finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists in Wednesday's Play-In win over the Heat. The reigning MVP carried a questionable tag heading into this one due to his infamous knee injury. But after practicing the last two days, he was available. Not only that, he logged 38 minutes. Without question, Embiid looked tired at times and also was observed grabbing his knee. However, it was a respectable showing for a guy who is nowhere near fully healthy. Fortunately, the Sixers will get a few days off before meeting the Knicks on Saturday to begin their series. Embiid will likely make another appearance on the injury report, although he should be good to go, barring a setback.

Duncan Robinson Wed Apr 17 7:10pm

Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (facet) will be active ahead of Wednesday's play-in game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Robinson will make his return to the rotation after missing each of the last four games. The Heat have said that Robinson won't have a minutes limit during this game. There was some questioning whether he'd replace Caleb Martin in the starting five. That won't be the case as Robinson will come off the bench during Wednesday's contest.