The NBA playoffs are right around the corner, and it appears the Cleveland Cavaliers are taking precautions to keep the team fresh heading into the postseason.
The Cavs elected to sit their Big Three on Saturday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, as Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James all got the night off.
Cleveland’s lack of firepower manifested itself in the scoreboard, as Los Angeles cruised to a 108-78 blowout victory.
Sitting star players is not an uncommon tactic in the league, as coaches will do it every so often in the hopes of maintaining a player’s longevity. San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is a notorious proponent of the move, and the Spurs’ success during his tenure proves its effectiveness.
Despite the normality of the situation, Cleveland’s choice to rest its star players did not sit well with one of the NBA’s greatest players. Basketball Hall of Famer Karl Malone was vehemently opposed to the decision, as he told ESPN’s Sage Steele.
Malone’s strongly-worded comments make sense given his approach to the game. The 14-time All Star rarely missed a game throughout his career, as ESPN’s Michael Wilbon pointed out via Twitter on Saturday night.
In Cleveland’s defense, the decision makes more sense given each player’s situation. Love is just returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for weeks, while Irving sustained a knee injury in Thursday night’s game against the Utah Jazz.
At 32 years old, James ranks second in the league in minutes per game, as he logs 37.5 minutes per contest. James obviously is essential to the Cavaliers’ playoff hopes, so keeping him fresh as the regular season winds down is critical.
The Cavaliers were fortunate to not have paid too much of a price for resting their All Stars on Saturday. The Boston Celtics were defeated by the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday afternoon, which maintained Cleveland’s two-game lead in the Eastern Conference standings.
Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports Images