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February 26, 2009

Breaking: Ben Wallace’s Fibula

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 11:35 pm

Big news during tonight’s TNT broadcast of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Houston Rockets, as Cavaliers forward Ben Wallace broke his right fibula during the second quarter of the game, apparently when he was inadvertently kicked by Houston’s Yao Ming. Wallace continued playing through the third quarter before the pain forced him to the locker room, where the injury was diagnosed.

According to David Aldridge’s insta-analysis, Rockets team doctors told Wallace that this is not necessarily a season-ending injury. Googling past diagnoses, the general timeframe appears to be somewhere between four weeks (end of March) and eight weeks (late April, into the playoffs). The likelihood is that Cleveland would have Wallace back in time for a potential matchup with the Boston Celtics in the playoffs. Still, this injury could have a major impact on the series. Not only is home-court advantage between the two teams up for grabs, so too is the chance to avoid the Orlando Magic in the second round in the playoffs (something which doesn’t loom as large as it did before Jameer Nelson‘s injury, but bigger than it did before the addition of Rafer Alston).

Thursday’s Houston win moved the Celtics a half-game ahead of the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference standings (Cleveland still has a game advantage in the loss column). Boston has had more than its share of injuries while continuing to play at a high level other than last night’s loss to the L.A. Clippers. Wallace’s injury evens things up and may give the Celtics the upper hand.

The Cavaliers will replace Wallace with a combination of J.J. Hickson, more minutes for Anderson Varejao and presumably more smallball with Wally Szczerbiak alongside LeBron James at power forward. Though Hickson has put up strong numbers during his rookie season, Cleveland has struggled with him on the floor, allowing 104.0 points per 100 possessions (per With Wallace on the court, the Cavaliers’ Defensive Rating is an impressive 97.0. So Wallace will be missed defensively. The difference probably won’t mean more than a game or two over the remainder of the regular season (should Wallace miss that long). In this year’s East, however, a game or two could be crucial.

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