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NBA: Struggling Wizards try to get back on track vs. Cavaliers

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The Cleveland Cavaliers likely will be without several key cogs on Thursday when they visit the Washington Wizards.

Already without Darius Garland due to health and safety protocols, the Cavaliers also will begin life without Ricky Rubio after the guard sustained a knee injury in their 108-104 setback to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

Rubio, who started in place of Garland, nearly recorded a triple-double against the Pelicans before a non-contact stop in the lane abruptly ended his evening. Rubio will have an MRI on Wednesday to determine the severity of the injury.

“I think this team is so close, so it’s like an extended family member goes down, and it just pains you,” teammate Kevin Love said. “It just hurts to see anyone go down, but especially a guy like Ricky, who has been so consistent for us and brings so much to this team for so many different reasons.”

Garland, who averages team-best averages in points (19.5) and assists (7.3), enjoyed success in this season’s first two encounters with the Wizards. He had 19 points in Cleveland’s 97-94 loss to Washington on Nov. 10 before erupting for a season-high 32 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in a 116-101 victory on Dec. 3.

Jarrett Allen, who averages 16.8 points per game to go along with a team-leading 10.8 rebounds, sat out Tuesday’s tilt due to COVID-19 protocols. Fellow center Evan Mobley returned from protocols against the Pelicans to collect 22 points and seven rebounds.

While Cleveland has dropped two of its last three following a sterling 10-2 run, Washington has lost nine of its last 12 to see its record fall to 17-17 on the season. The Wizards have yet to dip below .500 in 2021-22 after failing to go above that mark in each of the previous three seasons.

Spencer Dinwiddie collected 24 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in Washington’s 119-112 setback to the Miami Heat on Tuesday.

The Wizards were playing without eight players due to health and safety protocols, including three of their top five scorers. That group includes star Bradley Beal, who averages team-leading totals in points (23.3) and assists (5.9), Montrezl Harrell (14.5 points) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (11.0).

“This is a tough environment to begin with, but not having practiced, just doing a ballroom walkthrough … that’s tough to do,” Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “I give them credit for putting forth the effort they did.”

“It’s tough; it’s a lot of mental reps,” Kyle Kuzma said. “Right now, we can’t get into the gym, can’t practice … can’t get extra shots, tough to lift. That’s just the name of the time we’re in, in this world in society.”

Beal, however, could be close to a return after recently receiving his COVID-19 shot, per the Washington Post.

The Wizards, who boast an 8-5 record at home, hope a return home will help their fortunes. The club begins a stretch of playing 12 of its next 14 contests at home, starting with the opener of a four-game homestand on Tuesday.

–Field Level Media

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