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Cavaliers get Mobley back in lineup for Sunday's game at Heat

Evan Mobley Cleveland Cavaliers Evan Mobley - The Canadian Press

MIAMI (AP) — Evan Mobley was back in Cleveland's starting lineup on Sunday night, after missing nine games with a sprained left ankle.

It was a sign of at least some progress on the injury front for the Cavaliers, who were in Miami to play the short-handed Heat without Donovan Mitchell (nasal fracture), Max Strus (right knee) and Dean Wade (right knee). Miami was without Tyler Herro, Kevin Love, Duncan Robinson and rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr., players who have combined to make 91 starts this season.

The Cavaliers went 3-6 in the games that Mobley — the team’s only 7-footer — missed with the ankle issue. He’s been out for 32 of Cleveland’s 71 games this season; left knee surgery caused Mobley to miss 23 games in December and January.

“Obviously, when you go as long as he’s gone without playing games, you need to get up to NBA speed," Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "Evan, fortunately enough, that happens pretty quickly for him because of his IQ, his understanding of just where to be on the floor and kind of who he is, the selfless nature that he plays the game with."

Mobley entered Sunday averaging 15.6 points and 10.2 rebounds this season for Cleveland, which holds the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

Mitchell, who also has been dealing with knee soreness in addition to the nasal fracture, has now missed 13 of Cleveland’s last 18 games. Strus played in each of Cleveland’s first 60 games; he’s now missed all 11 contests since.

“They’re improving," Bickerstaff said. "With both of those guys, it’s just a matter of how they respond the next day. Obviously, we've got to be cautious with Donovan. Any time you have an injury to your face like that, you’ve got to make sure he’s always protected. So, we’ll just see how he continues to progress.”

For Miami, Herro missed his 15th consecutive game with what started as a knee issue and became a foot injury. Love missed his 13th game in a row with heel soreness, and Robinson was out for the third consecutive game with a back injury. A new issue popped up Sunday as well, with Jaquez out with left ankle and knee discomfort.

"I'm just thinking about what we need to do to prepare, to put ourselves in a position to win," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You have to attack whatever your reality is, and not overwhelm yourself with things you can’t control.”