Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hughes doubtful for Game 4

ESPN's Rachel Nichols called the news "short but devastating." Others among us might call it the best thing that could have happened to the Cavaliers.

But no matter how you slice it, Larry Hughes probably isn't playing in Game 4 tonight, and might be out longer than that.

An MRI following Game 3 revealed the reason Hughes was limping following a first-half drive to the hoop Sunday. He tore a heel muscle. Hughes' delicate body has betrayed him yet again.

His loss does potentially hurt at the defensive end. Though Hughes isn't really a point guard, he was big enough to match the size of Chauncey Billups, which is hard to do. Billups' size is a big reason why he gains the advantage in so many postseason point guard matchups.

Hughes at the offensive end ... that's another story. He has scored just 23 points in the entire series on 8-of-24 shooting, including his infamous miss of a seven-footer with the clock winding down in Game 2.

Hughes' injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Daniel Gibson, who came off the bench in Game 3 to score nine points and play a huge role in the fourth quarter. Somewhat surprisingly, he didn't give up much to Billups at the defensive end.

Gibson and Eric Snow will likely tag-team the point guard position in Hughes' absence, which could extend to several weeks. The mixture of the hot-shooting rookie with energy to spare and the wily veteran who specializes in defense actually seems kind of promising.

The Cavs have held Billups and Rip Hamilton in check all series, and it's not all due to Hughes. All the guards have done a good job defensively, as they have for most of the playoffs.

Now, much like Ryan Garko forced Eric Wedge to play him by sheer performance, Gibson has a chance to stake his claim to the fourth quarter. With one clutch performance under his belt, Gibson's role will now be expanded.

Of course, there is a flip side to that: The Pistons will be able to prepare for Game 4 knowing Gibson is going to play big minutes. Kelly Holcomb proved that sometimes, losing the element of surprise is the true devastating blow when you're used to coming off the bench.

Regardless, if the Cavs are to make a series of this, LeBron's main wingman might be a quick, undersized rookie. Hughes looks primed to fade into the background, the victim of yet another injury.

1 comment:

Suss said...

"Gibson and Eric Snow will likely tag-team the point guard position in Hughes' absence, which could extend to several weeks"

Yeesh. Playoffs have that much more to go?