By Tom Withers
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CLEVELAND _ Cavaliers starting forward Kevin Love will not play Thursday night against Miami because of a sore back.
Cleveland All-Star guard Kyrie Irving and Miami’s Dwyane Wade are both playing despite missing their teams’ respective shootarounds. Wade has been battling a stomach bug, but he was on the floor warming up two hours before tip-off and said he’s going to give it a try.
Irving missed shootaround with an unspecified illness, but coach David Blatt was confident his point guard would be in the lineup.
Love has battled a sore back during much of his first season with Cleveland. He got elbowed during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over Philadelphia and has not fully recovered.
Blatt said the team is being cautious with Love, who has missed six games this season.
“He’s made a lot of progress, but he’s not feeling great,” Blatt said. “This is not a rest thing. He’s feeling sub-par.”
The Cavs were given two days off earlier this week, and Love practiced on Wednesday but only took part in non-contact drills. Love said the short rest helped his back, but apparently not enough to allow him to play.
The Heat also have plenty of injury questions, including Luol Deng (knee) and Udonis Haslem (illness). Neither played in Miami’s loss to San Antonio on Tuesday and coach Erik Spoelstra said Haslem is with the team. Spoelstra didn’t make it clear if Haslem is playing.
The Cavs have seven games remaining in the regular season and Blatt is considering resting some of his players, including superstar LeBron James.
Cleveland has the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, ahead of Toronto and Chicago by three games. If the standings stay as they are currently, the Cavs would face the Heat in the first round.
Miami enters Thursday tied with Brooklyn for the No. 7 spot, though the Heat hold the tiebreaker over the Nets in that race.