INDEPENDENCE — The NBA All-Star break can’t come soon enough for the Cavaliers because they are running out of shooting guards.
Sasha Pavlovic, who was starting at the position in place of the injured Delonte West, was diagnosed with a high right ankle sprain Monday and is expected to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks.
He will join fellow two-guards — and valuable defenders — West (fractured right wrist) and Tarence Kinsey (sprained right ankle) in street clothes tonight when Cleveland plays in Indiana against the Pacers.
“It’s unfortunate, but I’ve said it before, we’ve just got to keep on keeping on,’’ coach Mike Brown said following practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “As many times as Sasha has turned his ankle when he’s either been starting or playing well for us, it’s been tough.
“But we’ve had guys step up before and we feel like we’re deep. I’ve just got to stretch guys’ minutes right now to get through this.”
Pavlovic was injured Sunday while making a deflection at the end of the first quarter against the Lakers. He was limping badly as he came off the court, went directly to the locker room, and did not return to the bench in what became a 101-91 loss.
Wally Szczerbiak assumed Pavlovic’s role with the first unit against Los Angeles and will step into his starting spot for at least the next two games. The Cavaliers (39-10) reach the All-Star break after visiting the Pacers (20-32) and hosting Phoenix (28-21) on Wednesday.
“Guys get broken down and it’s a long season, but when a guy goes down, another guy gets a chance to step it up,’’ said Szczerbiak, who will be wearing a plastic face mask until early March to protect his broken nose. “That’s what you have to do, but you also have to look at the break as a chance to recharge, which we could use.’’
While the 6-foot-7, 240-pound Szczerbiak is being forced into the backcourt, reinforcements may be on the way.
West had his cast removed Friday and is likely to resume practicing when the Cavaliers get back together on Feb. 16. He has missed 12 games since breaking his right wrist in a collision with Chicago guard Derrick Rose.
Kinsey, who was serving as Cleveland’s defensive specialist off the bench, has been sidelined since spraining his ankle Jan. 29 in Orlando. He is not expected back for another month.
Pavlovic’s absence could wind up exceeding Kinsey’s as he has been plagued by ankle problems throughout his six NBA seasons. In the last three years, the Serbian slasher has sat out 36 games with ankle sprains.
“Obviously, Sasha is another big loss, but we can’t use that as an excuse,’’ center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said. “With the ankle injuries he’s had, you can’t really prevent them. It’s tough, but it happens.
“Hopefully, we’ll get Delonte back after the All-Star break and that will ease the problems a little bit. He’s a big piece and a big part and we miss him a lot.’’
In the meantime, Brown will be forced to alter his rotation and shift around superstar LeBron James. Mo Williams remains at the point, while Daniel Gibson and the recently signed Trey Johnson are the only other true guards on the roster.
“We have enough good players to still go out there and win games if we defend the right way,’’ Brown said. “With only having Mo, Gib, Wally and LeBron, it’s tough to go small during games, but I probably will anyway and figure out the minutes as the game goes on.’’
The King’s court
James was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the fifth time this season and for the 18th time in his six-year career. He averaged 33.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 9.0 assists in three games from Feb. 2-9, highlighted by an electrifying 52-9-11 performance Wednesday at New York. One night earlier, James became the youngest NBA player to reach 12,000 points with 33 in a home win over Toronto.
Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol was tabbed the Western Conference Player of the Week, partly thanks to his 18-point, 12-rebound, 6-assist game Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena.
Deal or no deal
Brown downplayed the possibility the Cavaliers would trade for an additional post player, saying he is having a difficult enough time juggling minutes for Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ben Wallace, Anderson Varejao and James.
“Right now, I’m trying to split up 96 minutes at two positions, so if I bring a fifth big in here, it would be harder,’’ he said. “I can’t do anything with an additional big.’’
The Lakers not only ended Cleveland’s franchise-record 23-game home winning streak, they swept the home-and-home season series from the Cavaliers. That gives Los Angeles the tiebreaker edge should the teams finish with the same record — and meet in the NBA Finals.
“We have to be healthy if we see them again. We haven’t been healthy both times we played them,’’ James said. “The first time we didn’t have Z or Delonte (West), and this time we were without Sasha, Delonte and Tarence Kinsey. We have to be healthy first, but the Finals are a long way away.’’
The Lakers beat Cleveland 105-88 at Staples Center on Jan. 19, but had a much tougher time in their 10-point win at Quicken Loans Arena.
“The Lakers just exploited some of the matchups we had,’’ James said. “I don’t think it’s defensively where we were bad, it was offensively where we weren’t good.’’
The Cavaliers/Lakers clash was the most-watched Sunday game on ABC since the network regained national television rights six years ago. It drew a 5.0 overnight rating, according to Nielsen Media Research, to blow past the previous record of 4.3 set by a Spurs/Lakers game on April 4, 2004.
Down to the farm
The Cavaliers sent Darnell Jackson to the NBA Development League’s Erie BayHawks for a one-game conditioning stint. The rookie from Kansas was slated to play Monday when Erie hosted the Utah Flash, then rejoin his Cleveland teammates in Indianapolis today.
“We felt it would be good for him to get some minutes,’’ Brown said. “It’s just an opportunity for him to blow it out a little bit.’’
Jackson is averaging 1.0 points and 1.2 rebounds in 24 games, but has logged just eight total minutes over the Cavaliers’ last six games.
Contact Brian Dulik at 330-721-4059 or email@example.com.