The Cleveland Cavaliers, fresh off clinching the Central Division title versus the Bucks on Tuesday, have nothing much to play for over the final four games of the season. Brian Windhorst reported on Wednesday that LeBron James has hinted he'll rest for the weekend home-and-home with Boston, a pragmatic decision on multiple fronts. Not only will James get some much-needed rest, but that ought to increase the odds that the Celtics will win one of these games (or both, if Kyrie and Love sit as well). Why would the Cavs want Boston to win? To help keep Miami and Indiana out of the playoffs. I'm sure no one on Cleveland's side would admit that, but if it happens to be a happy side effect to guys getting rest, so be it.
Who? Boston Celtics (36-42) at Cleveland Cavaliers (51-27)
When? 7:30 pm ET
Where? The Q.
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Enemy blog: CelticsBlog
Boston is 6-4 over their past ten games and 16-11 overall since the All-Star Break. Isaiah Thomas has averaged 19.7 points and 5.3 assists per game since arriving from Phoenix at the deadline and has provided the Celtics the dynamic, playmaking guard their offense sorely needed. Evan Turner has averaged 13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists on 49 percent shooting over his past ten appearances. Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko have been solid contributors since arriving in Boston via separate trades. Since the trade deadline, the Celtics are 13th in the league in Net Rating despite having, at best, a somewhat mediocre roster.
While the players deserve a ton of credit for buying in and refusing to give up, even though their two best players from training camp (Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green) are no longer with the team, it's the coach who rightly receives league-wide praise. Brad Stevens has done a terrific job installing his system and getting guys to buy in, even when they're on short-term deals. While it could be argued that making the playoffs actually hurts the rebuilding effort because it'll keep them out of the Draft Lottery, the Celtics seem to have decided that pushing for the postseason is the better play. Of course, it helps the fact that they own every Brooklyn pick between now and 2080 - not really true, but you get the picture - makes that decision a bit easier.
As for the Cavs, it'd be really neat if they just sat LeBron, Kyrie and Love for the rest of the season. All that matters is getting everyone right for the playoffs. Kyrie may be the difficult one to sit, as that would leave Matthew Dellavedova as the only true ballhandler left available. Either way, hopefully we see a whole lot of Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Harris, Mike Miller, James Jones, Brendan Haywood and Kendrick Perkins over the next four games. Put everyone else in bubble wrap, if possible.
FEAR THE SWORD FEARLESS PREDICTION
I don't know. Who's going to play? If LeBron sits, I say the Cavs still win... let's say, 105-93. If LeBron and Kyrie sit, the Celtics win... 99-91. If each of the Big Three sit, the Celtics win easily (105-87) and we all forget this game happened as soon as it's over.