For me, the best news about last night’s game between the Cavs and the Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, was that unforeseen circumstances prevented me from shelling out a couple hundred bucks to watch it in person. Unfortunately, the some 21,000 other fans in attendance weren’t so lucky. The highly anticipated Saturday night match up between LeBron James and his big three against CP3 and his big three never materialized, as the Cavs elected to rest their stars on the front end of an LA back to back. And, it wasn’t just the disappointed fans at Staples who were jilted out of a marquee event, since the game was broadcast nationally on ABC (the second consecutive national Saturday night game to feature significant players out due to rest after last week’s Warriors/Spurs letdown). At least it didn’t cost the viewing audience at home any of their hard earned money to change the channel from this turkey of a game… but the outcome was not a surprise given the circumstance.
With Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving resting their knees (due to surgery and soreness respectively), Ty Lue made the unpopular decision (with the fans and LeBron anyway) to prevent LBJ from exerting himself for 40 minutes to carry the Cavs on his own in this one. Kyle Korver (foot) was also still out, so the Cavs rolled out a starting five of Channing Frye, Tristan Thompson, Deron Williams, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. While it marked J.R.’s return as a starter, I’m sure he wasn’t anticipating it would happen in quite this fashion. The Clippers, meanwhile, were completely healthy, and in dire need of a win. Although, it didn’t seem that way initially, as the Cavs somehow took a 16-14 lead after one of the ugliest quarters of basketball the League has seen this season. The 12-2 run by the Cavs to close the period was their last real bright spot, as the Clips demolished them 33-15 in the second quarter to lead at the half, 47-31.
Channing Frye hit a couple of threes early in the third to close the gap to 10, but that would be the closest the Cavs would get for the rest of the game. Blake Griffin took over with some unchecked aggression, scoring 13 of his game high 23 to put the game effectively out of reach. The Cavs found themselves down by 18 going into the fourth quarter, and then the likes of Austin Rivers, Ray Felton, Marrese Speights and Brandon Bass wiped the floor with the reserves. Even the nearly retired Paul Pierce had a triple, a dunk and a block. The lead continued to swell, ending with a 30 point disparity in the final score, 108-78.
Aside from a night of rest for the Cavs’ big three… there’s really not much in the way of positives to take away from this one. I mean, nobody else got hurt, so there’s that…
I guess the Cavs did have all five “starters” in double figures, along with Richard Jefferson and Kay Felder off the bench… so seven guys with double digit scoring. Although, R.J. was the high scorer with 12.
Channing Frye, Deron Williams and Iman Shumpert contributed about what they normally do. While that’s enough off the bench on a regular night, it wasn’t going to cut it with them in the starting lineup.
They also won the turnover battle, 12-15 (okay, I’m just reaching now)…
After “winning” the first quarter 16-14, it was in doubt for a while that the Cavs would even break the thirty point barrier in the first half. The 78 points for the Cavs was their low mark on the season, as was their five made threes, and their 18.5% from beyond the arc.
The Cavs lost the rebounding battle, 58-44… the assist differential, 27-15… and the shooting percentage, 51%-38%.
J.R. Smith had a rough night. He hit just 4-17, and was 0-7 from deep. He also took an elbow to the abdomen from J.J. Redick in the first quarter and had to exit for a few minutes.
DeAndre Liggins and Kay Felder continued to make the case for why they can’t crack the rotation when guys aren’t hurt or resting. Lig went 1-3 with four turnovers in 18 minutes (at least he did snag four steals). Kay somehow was able to jack up 12 shots in just 15 minutes (making four), and also cancelled out his two assists with two turns.
Chris Paul obviously felt less than challenged without his old pal LBJ on the court. Or, maybe his 0-8 (0-5 from downtown) performance was his own form of protest for the absence.
The ABC commentators (Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Breen) spent most of the broadcast complaining vociferously about the decision by the Cavs to rest their stars.
“We Want LeBron!”
— TBN (@TBNMedia) March 19, 2017
The Clippers fans got this chant going early to voice their own displeasure for a healthy LeBron being MIA from this contest (he was drinking coffee on the sideline instead). David Griffin, when interviewed by Lisa Salters before the game, defended the team’s decision to rest their stars, citing not only the schedule, but also the real need to rest Kevin and Kyrie…
“Because if they play tomorrow, they get two days off in a row now, and then they get two days off before Denver [on Wednesday],” Griffin told ESPN. “So from a rehab standpoint, he wouldn’t have gotten the same amount of rest between games. We were never going to play Kevin this game, so he could get two days off. And Kyrie is off after leaving the last game hurt.”
Griffin also pointed out that the Cavs’ situation was different than the one last Saturday when the Warriors rested healthy players against the Spurs.
“It was nothing like the last time that happened,” he told ESPN. “Those were three healthy dudes that rested. That’s not what happened tonight. Yeah, it sucks from a timing perspective. I feel bad for the league. I really do. I feel bad for the league, but it is what it is for us, from an injury standpoint. As you know, we haven’t had a team together for more than a week at a time all year.”
The thing is, he’s not wrong… the NBA has a scheduling problem that they need to address this next off season. If they’re going to require teams to play the same level of back to backs, they’re going to have to be more shrewd to try and avoid them for nationally televised games. Still, it does suck for fans who pay good money (money that goes directly into the pockets of owners and to pay player salaries) to see stars the one time they visit their city. Overall, it cheapens the product, and may very well mushroom from an image problem into one of declining attendance over time.
As a Cavs fan, it’s easier to live with LeBron, Kyrie and Kevin taking some games off for rest and maintenance during the regular season… especially if it helps them stay fresher and healthier for an extended post-season run. However, games like this when they’re all missing in action are not only difficult to watch, but a genuine rip off for the fans who paid to see them. We’ll see who winds up playing today against the tanking Lakers…