Practice Notebook: Diving Into The Road Woes, Mitchell Practicing And Wade's Return

Practice Notebook: Diving into the road woes, Mitchell practicing and Wade's return

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 Danny Cunningham covers the Cleveland Cavaliers for 850 ESPN Cleveland and

The Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled to win games away from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse this season. That’s far from a secret as the team is just 9-14 on the road to this point. The Cavs are only one of two teams in the top seven in the Eastern Conference to have a below .500 record on the road.

Whether it’s been due to the inability to close out games, poor shooting, or poor play, the Cavs haven’t been able to find consistency on the road.

“When you go back and watch it, I don't think we've played poorly. I think we've done the right things, at the end of the day I think we just didn't make enough shots,” Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after practice on Monday. “Obviously, we had some off nights, don't get me wrong. I think we've played the game the right way on the road, just haven't done enough to win enough.”

While Bickerstaff isn’t always the first person to lean on analytics to explain things – and he didn’t in this case – they do support what he’s saying as far as the team’s performance on the road. Despite having a winning percentage on the road of .391, tied for 14th in the NBA, the Cavs are one of only five teams in the NBA that have a positive net rating on the road. Away from Cleveland, the Cavs are outscoring opponents by 0.8 points per 100 possessions, trailing only Boston, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and New York.

This isn’t to say that the team has found some magic cure to winning on the road as they embark on their final road trip of the season that covers more than two cities, but it could be a hint that success on the road could be on the horizon and they haven’t been nearly as bad as their record shows away from home.

Healing up

Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell was able to be a full participant in practice on Monday according to Bickerstaff. Mitchell has missed the previous three games for the Cavaliers after leaving last Monday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans with a left groin strain.

This has been the longest absence of the season for Mitchell, who had previously not missed more than two straight games earlier in the year. With him missing, the Cavaliers went 1-2 against the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, and Milwaukee Bucks.

Mitchell returning on Tuesday in New York is most likely in the cards. The team has listed him as probable on the injury report Monday evening. Even if he doesn't play Tuesday, it would be fairly shocking if he didn't play at some point on this three-game road trip that heads to Houston and Oklahoma City following the game against the Knicks. 

Mitchell’s groin right now is the only thing from keeping the Cavaliers from the healthiest they’ve been all season. The team saw forward Dean Wade step back into game action on Saturday night after missing seven weeks due to a shoulder and ankle injury and obviously has Ricky Rubio on the floor again too.

This means that at a certain point the rotation is going to look different for the Cavs. They’re going to have to figure out what works and what doesn’t with a full allotment of players. There’s no way to know exactly how long it will last, but this does mean there will likely be an adjustment period for Bickerstaff as a coach but also the roster as playing time for certain guys could fluctuate.

Speaking of Wade

While Wade was sidelined the most difficult thing for him, he said, was getting close to returning before experiencing a setback the day before the Cavs took on the Utah Jazz.

“I would say the west coast road trip,” Wade said when asked what the most difficult part of being injured was. “I was there, the plan was to go and maybe get some play at the end of that west coast road trip. Just to see everyone out there compete, being around everyone the whole time was fun, but you know, definitely miss it for sure.”

Wade’s return to the lineup can certainly help provide the team with perimeter shooting as well as defense on the wing. His versatility as a swingman between the small and power forward positions can help to change what type of lineups the Cavs can use.