Updates from Monday, March 31
Mary Schmitt Boyer and Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer have an update on Anderson Varejao:
#Cavs Anderson Varejao (sprained right AC joint) is out for Orlando and status will be updated as appropriate going forward— M.S. Boyer/J. Valade (@PDcavsinsider) March 31, 2014
Cleveland Cavaliers star Anderson Varejao exited Sunday's game against the Indiana Pacers with a right shoulder strain.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer's official Twitter account reported on Varejao's injury and indicated that he would not return for the rest of the contest:
Right shoulder strain for Andy. Will not return. Replays seem to indicate he was hurt while attemping a pass against David West— M.S. Boyer/J. Valade (@PDcavsinsider) March 30, 2014
Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio had more on Varejao's injury:
No update on Anderson Varejao (shoulder strain). Will be re-evaluated Monday, says #Cavs coach Mike Brown.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) March 30, 2014
Varejao scored six points and grabbed six rebounds in 14 minutes before exiting. Injuries have been an issue for Varejao in the past, and he's missed significant time this year, too, but head coach Mike Brown still wanted him back as soon as possible when he missed his 12th straight game back in early March.
"I hope every day," said Brown, per Jodie Valade of the Plain Dealer. "I've been hoping for a while. Anybody would, but we're going to do what's right for him, long term."
A deadline trade to acquire Spencer Hawes has helped Cleveland stay strong up front, but it hasn't been quite enough to climb the standings to compete for the postseason.
Thanks largely to the poor overall play in the Eastern Conference, the Cavs still have faint playoff hopes at this late juncture in the 2013-14 NBA season, but carrying on without Varejao hurts their chances a lot.
Part of the success the Cavs were having in taking a double-digit lead over Indiana at the half was the Pacers settling for jumpers—a product of Varejao's disruption in the paint—per FoxSportsOhio.com's Sam Amico:
All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving is already missing from the lineup, along with underrated scorer C.J. Miles. In Varejao's absence, former first-round pick Tyler Zeller should be asked to step up and contribute more in the frontcourt rotation. Zeller brings a more finessed offensive game to the floor, but Varejao's hustle and relentlessness on the boards is something no one on Cleveland's roster can replace.
The Pacers are atop the Eastern Conference coming down the stretch, so they have plenty to play for to stay out in front of the Miami Heat.
Any effort to make the postseason will likely be too little, too late for Cleveland as it is. Even if it somehow snatches the eighth seed, a likely matchup with Indiana would loom in the first round. To win even one of those games would be an impressive achievement, especially if Irving and Varejao are still missing.
For now, all the Cavs can do is focus on what's in front of them and try to overcome the loss of two of their key players in a last-minute playoff push.