Indiana Pacers rookie Chris Duarte on Tuesday returned from a three-game absence due to a toe injury and scored in double figures during a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Duarte produced 11 points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal in 15 minutes of work in the 127-124 defeat. He looked to be a bit rusty in the contest, converting just 4-of-14 shot attempts from the field, including 1-of-4 from 3-point range.
The 13th pick initially suffered the injury on Feb. 13 and then missed the next three games. He returned to play two games but left early on Feb. 28 after aggravating the injury. Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said the team would be cautious to get Duarte more time to recover.
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Duarte has emerged as one of the top first-year players, averaging 13.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He was the ninth player in team history to be selected for the NBA Rising Stars game and the first since Domantas Sabonis in 2018.
The final 15 games of the season will be a good opportunity for Duarte and the rest of the team to build positive momentum heading into next season so the team will likely continue to ease him back into action to prevent further injury.
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