CLEVELAND, Ohio – About 55 minutes before the dip-off between the Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks in Friday night’s win-or-go home play-in game, Jared Allen ran to court with his stockings and shoes on. Standing applause.
As fans for both the Caves Game and the Guardians Home Opener converged on Downtown, Allen, who was stuck in gridlock traffic, arrived late. But after missing the last 19 games due to a fracture in his left middle finger, he is not going to miss his final pre-game warm-up routine.
He is not going to miss any part of Friday evening, due to his interest in dismissal shares and his return to court.
“It’s important for me to play,” Allen said. “I’m not even mentally, it’s a big deal, but the team felt I had to be out for them 70%, 80% .I have to show my face and make some kind of effort to give that determination if I can.
The All-Star Center provided the impetus he thought, especially as the Caves rose to 14 in the first quarter. In the end, it was not enough as Cleveland ran out of gas in the second half, Hawks, 107-101.
Although Allen’s visit was not enough, it reflects the culture that Caves created this year. One of toughness, accountability, scraping, ugly success and “junk dogs”.
His return is especially appreciated when you consider his role. Allen hits down on the post at both ends of the floor. In crime, he is always threatening to throw down the slam dunks that hit the poster. In defense, he constantly uses his verticality to block shots and avoid making false calls.
“That’s this team,” coach JP Pickerstaff said. “Jared, one of our leaders, understood the moment and was willing to sacrifice his body for the good of the team. Wanted to go out and help his comrades, I thought he did a great job with it.
Allen finished the game with 11 points, three rebounds, two assists and one block in 36 minutes, and showed more play in 15 shots. His eight points and a blocked shot gave the Caves their lead in the first quarter.
He made an immediate impact as the Caves used their usual large line-up, which gave them so much success this season, featuring Allen, Evan Mobley and Larry Morganen.
“Even though he’s not 100%, he definitely went there and did the best he could,” Mobley said of Allen. “He played with one hand, but he definitely made a difference for us in the end of the defense and offense. I’m definitely proud of him, he’s definitely given us a big boost today.
However, in his first game, which lasted more than a month, his presence alone was not enough to counter a stagnation or 38-point night in the second half for Hawks guard Trey Young.
After missing the previous 19 games, there was only so much Allen could do to change Caves’ fortunes. How far they would have fallen in the Eastern Conference stages without him is an unreasonable burden.
Fighting through adversity has become a characteristic of this team, but it was hard not to guess what Friday night would have been like. Caves lost three players, Colin Sexton, Dean Wade and Ricky Rubio, to knee injuries. This winter the players were severely affected as they were placed on health and safety protocols. Along with that, Mobley missed 13 games, with Allen 26 and Darius Garland 14.
These are all above the normal depreciation that occurs throughout the 82-game season. But still, they rose to second place in the Eastern Conference stages.
Allen’s injury and subsequent absence came as the race for the playoff positioning heated up. Without him, Cleveland would have fallen into play-off territory and gone 7-11 in the final 18 games. Without him the Caves had a defensive rating of 117.3, ranking 22nd in that period (compared to their 108.9 rating for the entire regular season).
Allen, for the past one month, has been feeling helpless, watching the slide happen, unable to play and unable to do anything about it.
“It was like it bit me,” Allen said. “I really wanted to be out. I really wanted to play on the side of my teammates, but it’s just a finger. I do not think I should add any positivity to being out. I’m not mentally ready to play and compete there knowing that I still have a broken finger. Time.But I was out conditionally every day.If anything was going to stop me, it would be my finger.It’s not conditioning, headspace or anything.
If he gets any good news from the evening, Allen’s injury will not require him for season surgery. He has already passed that stage in the healing process and he said it would be better to allow the finger to heal on its own after talking to the doctors, his father and his inner circle.
When Allen has a few months to recover, he will spend time thinking about this season. Splitting mistakes, watching the movie, doing everything necessary to come strong next year and learn from this year’s lessons.
But when Caves returns next year, Allen knows that he and his other teammates will come to the locker room with a well-established culture that emphasizes caring for each other.
Having no problem coping with traffic to an All-Star Center, and running to court with his pants on, for a chance to get the final green light to play.
“We talked about this team all year long, having each other’s backs, playing with each other, and being with each other off the court,” Allen said. “I think – no, I do not think – I know this is the reason we were able to overcome all of this misery. We were able to rely on each other and keep each other on our backs and move forward when they needed us most. We went there and played as a team.
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