CLEVELAND — There's one thing that seems to happen in Cavaliers games without fail—Darius Garland getting banged up on the court. It's been such a frequent occurrence that the broadcast can't help but speak about it frequently.
"And once again Darius Garland has been hit in the face," Cavs play-by-play announcer John Michael said as Garland held his eye on the court after a hit Friday.
"Oh brother, and now Garland is grabbing at his hand," Michael bemoaned later in the game.
"It’s amazing I’ve never seen it that many times," color commentator Austin Carr said in awe.
From being hit in the face to being swiped in the hands, Garland has taken his fair share of contact.
"Obviously he keeps finding a way to get hit in the face, again, he gets chopped on the hand again. So he’s out there taking a beating," said head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.
On Friday against the Denver Nuggets, that was evident as Garland worked through being hit in the face in the second quarter and swiped in the hand that he's already injured in the fourth quarter.
Garland's injuries began in the season opener against the Toronto Raptors when he was poked in the eye so hard it caused a laceration inside his eyelid and swelled it shut, forcing him to miss five games while it healed. Since then, Garland has drawn contact to that eye and his face in general time and time again.
Most recently, Garland missed three games with a thumb sprain sustained against the Indiana Pacers. He returned to the court on Friday and agitated it again as he drove to the hoop and Vlatko Cancar swatted at the ball, making contact with the already injured thumb.
The incidents are not exclusive to any team—they're just something that seems to come with the territory of trying to guard a player like Garland who beats them off the dribble with ease.
"It’s tough the way he plays, the way that he’s defended, people are handsy and they do a lot of swiping at the ball trying to get steals. Not in a malicious way in any means, not trying to say that, but his hands are involved in a lot of the plays so we’re just going to have to figure it out, figure out how to help him," Bickerstaff said.
Garland's thumb sprain is something he's not fully recovered from and the pain si something he clearly felt throughout the game but managed to tough it out and play through.
Bickerstaff said that's something he could see impacting him more and more as the game went on.
"He’s a tough kid but we just have to find a way to protect him if we can," Bickerstaff said. "I do think as the game went on and he was getting chopped and hit more, there was a little bit of irritant. But I think even after you saw that chop he went and finished and played in traffic some so he was able to gut through it."
After the game, the Cavs were unsure how much extra damage, if any, was done to Garland's thumb, but Bickerstaff knows they'll need to continue monitoring.
But the goal for this road trip—that sees the Cavs take on the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves before returning to Cleveland to play the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 16.—will be to find a way, if there is one, to protect Garland from getting any more dinged up along the way.
"We will make sure it’s not something that can get worse, but again we just got to find a way to protect him," Bickerstaff said.
The Cavs tip off their next game with the Suns Sunday at 8 p.m.
Camryn Justice is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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