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NBA Wounded Cavaliers hang on to first



Published: Tue, February 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Staying atop the Central will be difficult if some players don't return soon.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Sitting upright in his locker-room recliner, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Eric Snow did a crossover dribble with one ice bag as he looked down at the ones already strapped to his knees, thigh and ankle.

Snow laughed as he surveyed the scene and the toll taken on his 31-year-old body recently.

So, what was hurting? His groin? Hamstring? Knees?

"Just playing a lot of minutes," Snow said, smiling after Sunday's victory against the Milwaukee Bucks, "and getting old."

Snow wasn't the only Cavalier feeling the pain after Cleveland, playing its second consecutive game without LeBron James, beat the Bucks 104-87 and remained in first place in the NBA's Central.

Staying atop the division is going to be much tougher if the Cavs don't start getting healthy soon.

Injuries mount

Cleveland coach Paul Silas, who only had nine players to begin Sunday's game, was down to seven after guard Lucious Harris bruised his sternum and forward Sasha Pavlovic sustained a hip flexor.

They joined James (sprained ankle), Anderson Varejao (sprained ankle), Ira Newble (sprained Achilles), Luke Jackson (back surgery) and Dajuan Wagner (colitis) among the Cavs walking wounded.

Silas canceled Monday's practice, primarily to get his players some much needed rest for tonight's game in Orlando. But unless he threw a jersey on himself or recruited a trainer, assistant coach or two, Silas wouldn't have had enough bodies to scrimmage 5-on-5 anyway with the way the Cavs are falling apart.

Harris and Pavlovic had further medical exams Monday and both traveled with the team to Florida. They were listed as probable on the team's medical report.

Harris first got hurt Friday in a loss in New York and played as long as he could against the Bucks with a pad protecting his chest. However, he ran into an elbow from Milwaukee's Zaza Pachulia in the second quarter and was done for the night.

"It was way too tender," Harris said.

Good news

James, who rolled his left ankle last week in a victory against Memphis, is listed as a game-time decision on the injury report, but Silas expects James to return tonight.

"The swelling is down. The soreness is still there, but it's not nearly as much," Silas said.

That's great news for the Cavs, who before buckling down in the fourth quarter against Milwaukee, looked lost without their leader. Silas said he felt it was crucial to the team's collective psyche to get a victory while James was out.

"They know LeBron fuels this whole thing," Silas said. "But playing as a team, they got the win. As this thing unfolds, bringing more people into the rotation and producing will be important."

Silas has been candid in assessing his team's limitations when James is not on the floor. When James broke his cheekbone last month, Silas said "without him, we're just not a very good team."

No insult

After James injured his ankle last week, Silas said he envisioned "a lot of losses upcoming." While those comments raised eyebrows outside Gund Arena, Silas isn't worried about any of his players taking the criticism to heart.

"It's just that I don't want people to think I can work miracles when I can't," he said. "I have to have all of my players intact for us to win. That's not a knock on anybody."




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