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Cavs' Garland to return from broken jaw suffered Wednesday

Darius Garland Darius Garland - The Canadian Press

CLEVELAND (AP) — For the first time in more than six weeks, the Cleveland Cavaliers are nearly complete.

Point guard Darius Garland, who broke his jaw on Dec. 14 in Boston, returned Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the former All-Star would be limited to 20-24 minutes as he begins his comeback.

“We'll be cautious and let Darius take his time to work up back to speed,” Bickerstaff said.

Garland's return is another boost for the surging Cavs, who despite being without the 24-year-old as well as forward Evan Mobley (knee surgery) for nearly two months, have played their best ball this season.

The Cavs went 14-4 without the two starters, and they've won 10 of 11 to move within 2 1/2 games of Milwaukee for the No. 2 overall spot in the Eastern Conference entering Wednesday night's games. Mobley returned on Monday night in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Cleveland has gone 15-4 since Dec. 16, a day after the team announced both Garland and Mobley would be out indefinitely.

“They put us over the hump from a talent standpoint," forward Georges Niang said after Wednesday's shootaround. “Those guys are a huge key to our success. Yes, we survived with them out, but we're extremely excited to have them back in the lineup.”

Now in his fifth season, Garland averaged 20.7 points and 5.9 assists in 20 games before getting hurt.

Garland broke his jaw on what looked like a run-of-the-mill play. While driving to the basket, Garland banged the right side of his face into Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis and suffered a fracture that required surgery.

Garland's jaw was wired shut for a month, restricting him to a liquid diet. In the past two weeks, he's been able to build strength and put on some of the weight he lost.

“The worst thing you can do to Darius is take away his opportunities to play basketball, so we've had to calm him down because he's so excited,” Bickerstaff said.

Mobley is also playing limited minutes as he works his way back. The Cavs will play at Memphis on Thursday and at San Antonio on Saturday.


AP freelancer Brian Dulik contributed to this report.