For the Cavaliers, two consecutive dates in Brooklyn await — Tuesday, then again Thursday.
They are hoping center Jarrett Allen will be ready to return for the first. And if not the first, the second, as relayed by Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.
Allen, 24, went down after getting accidentally poked in the eye by Heat big man Bam Adebayo in a road game on March 10. He has not played since. It’s the second major eye injury suffered by a Cavs player this season — with Allen joining point guard Darius Garland in that department. Garland went down in the season-opener vs. the Raptors.
Today, the Cavs are trying to strike a balance of holding onto the No. 4 overall spot in the Eastern Conference, while keeping their core players healthy and ready for the playoffs.
A couple of wins against the Nets will go a long way toward that. The Cavs can give themselves some separation between the Nets and Knicks behind them, then potentially start resting some guys for the playoffs. If not for entire games, then at least parts of games.
As for catching the 76ers for the No. 3 overall spot … well, that’s probably not gonna happen. That’s not as important as going into the playoffs with the fourth seed and having all your guys, anyway.
So an Allen return would go a long way toward everything the Cavs are hoping to accomplish. He is the anchor to their defense and a player who doesn’t need the ball but can still produce on offense.
Look no further than last season, when Allen missed the final 18 games with an injury and the Cavs struggled mightily in his absence.
“He’s progressing well,” Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said on Friday, via Fedor. “Again, structurally everything is OK to this point. You just deal with the things that happen when you get hit in the eye and the swelling around the eye. He’s doing more on the court and it’s just a matter of when he can safely return.
“We’re hopeful. Just don’t know. When you take that shot, everybody’s eye is going to heal at its own pace. We’ll just take our time with him. Never put him in a position where he is compromised.”
Allen is averaging 14.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and shooting 65 percent from the field in 62 games. Cleveland (45-28) has won three of the four games Allen missed because of the eye injury, and is 6-5 overall without him on the season.
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