April 17, 2014

Medina
Mostly sunny
58°F

Waiters returns to backcourt

Rick Noland

The Gazette

INDEPENDENCE — The Cavaliers will have their regular starting backcourt tonight when they host the Toronto Raptors at Quicken Loans Arena.

After getting point guard Kyrie Irving back four games ago from a fractured left index finger, the Cavs expect to have rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters return tonight after missing eight games with a sprained left ankle and bone bruise.

The Cavs (5-20) were 2-9 minus Irving, 1-7 minus Waiters and 0-4 minus both.

“I felt good,” Waiters said Monday following practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “I just had to do a full practice first to see where my conditioning was at. It was good. I surprised myself.”

Cavs coach Byron Scott confirmed “No. 3 looked good,” but would not confirm Waiters would go back in the starting lineup tonight, saying he would make a decision sometime today.

Scott subscribes to the theory a player doesn’t lose his spot due to injury, but there’s a chance he could bring Waiters off the bench for a few games, especially since eighth-year pro C.J. Miles has averaged 22.5 points in four starts at shooting guard.

Whether it’s tonight or sometime in the near future, however, Waiters will soon be back in the starting lineup, because the Cavs like the way he can create not only for himself, but for others.

“When he does attack, he finds people when teams collapse,” Scott said. “He’s not a reluctant passer. He finds people. The more he can be on attack, the better it is for us as a team.”

Waiters, however, fell in love with his jumper early in the season. He was shooting .480 from the field after four games, but dropped to .335 over his next 13.

For the season, the 21-year-old — Waiters celebrated a birthday Dec. 10 — is averaging 15.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists. The 6-foot-4, 221-pounder is shooting .363 from the field, .355 on 3-pointers and .780 at the line.

“I found myself shooting a lot of jump shots,” Waiters said. “That’s really not part of my game. I can shoot, but I’m better attacking and finding open guys and creating plays.”

Ailing Raptors

While the Cavs are getting healthy, the Raptors are hurting. Toronto is without 16.0-point scorer Andrea Bargnani due to a torn right elbow ligament and strained right wrist, while 15.8-point scorer Kyle Lowry is out with a partially torn right triceps and Landry Fields is out with an ulnar nerve injury.

The Raptors entered Monday with the fourth-worst record in the league at 6-19, while the Cavs had the second-worst mark. Washington (3-18) had the worst record and New Orleans (5-18) was third.

Toronto is 1-14 on the road, but is coming off a home win Sunday against Houston.

Tip-ins

Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, the No. 5 pick in the 2011 draft who did not play in the NBA last season, has started all 25 games and is averaging 8.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.2 blocks while shooting .513 from the field. Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson, chosen No. 4 and in his second year in the league, has also started all 25 games and is at 8.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.6 blocks while shooting .445.

l With 41 points Saturday in New York, Irving became the youngest player to score 40 or more points in Madison Square Garden, which opened in 1968. Michael Jordan held the previous record.

l With Irving, Thompson and Tyler Zeller wearing protective masks, Scott joked he wants to find two more players to don them so he can put a full lineup on the floor. Scott also said Irving will not be allowed to change from a black mask — his teammates nicknamed him “The Dark Knight” — after scoring a career high in his first game with the headgear.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.