CLEVELAND (AP) — Already missing an All-Star and their best big man, the Cleveland Cavaliers have lost another key player to injury.
Just in time to face the scorching Heat.
Rookie guard Dion Waiters will miss at least one week with a sore left knee and may need surgery, another blow to the young Cavs who are already without Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao and will have to face history-chasing Miami on Wednesday night. The Heat have won 23 straight games, the second-longest streak in NBA history.
Waiters, who has been slowed by the knee for several games, left Monday's game against Indiana in the first half and did not return. He underwent an MRI on Tuesday which revealed loose cartilage in his left knee. The Cavs said Waiters will rest and have treatment over the next week, and it's possible the No. 4 overall pick in last year's draft may need an arthroscopic procedure.
It's another setback to the banged-up Cavs, who may not have Irving back this season. He recently sprained his left shoulder and will be out another two weeks. Varejao was having an All-Star caliber season before he sustained a severe quadriceps injury in January. Following surgery, Varejao developed blood clots, had to be hospitalized and will not play again this season.
The Cavs have had more than their share of injuries. On Monday, forward Luke Walton became the fourth Cleveland player to wear a protective face mask this season. Irving, Tristan Thompson and rookie Tyler Zeller all had facial bones broken this season.
The injuries have forced coach Byron Scott to mix and match lineups, and on Wednesday, he'll start Wayne Ellington in Waiters' spot at shooting guard alongside Shaun Livingston.
Cleveland has played Miami tough twice this season, but Scott knows the challenge will be tougher now.
"Anything can happen," Scott said. "Just like boxers. James Buster Douglas against Mike Tyson. Nobody in the world thought it would happen."
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and their Heat teammates are now within 10 games of matching the league mark for consecutive wins set by the 1971-71 Los Angeles Lakers.
"We have to play probably our best game of the season because they're playing at a different level than everybody else," he said. "I'm sure from their standpoint, they're on a high. When you're playing that well, you have to have some luck in there during that streak. But you almost get to the point you feel you're invincible, that you' can't lose.
"I think that's where they are right now."
Cavs guard Daniel Gibson expects Cleveland fans to be rude to James, just as they have in his previous visits since leaving the Cavaliers as a free agent after the 20210 season.
"Of course it'll be the same for him," Gibson said. "They're not going to like him. And we'll love it."
Gibson knows the Cavs are huge underdogs, and he wants them to show a little bite.
"I hope us as a team are ready for a challenge like that," he said. "We've been hit pretty hard with injuries of late. It'll be a big test for us if we can show some resolve, show some perseverance and get out there and win that game.
"It'll be big for us coming down the home stretch of the season."