VIDEO: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will prioritize rest over the No.1 seed
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The maintenance plan in San Antonio is a staple of Gregg Popovich‘s program, no matter where the Spurs are in the standings this time of year.
But in Cleveland, where the Cavaliers are just a game ahead of the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference playoff chase? Apparently so. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue made that clear to reporters today as he discussed the way he will approach the final days of the regular season in preparation for, what he anticipates to be a second consecutive deep playoff run for his team.
“We definitely want the No. 1 seed if we can get it, but I think we have to rest our guys also,” Lue said, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported after the team’s shootaround Monday morning. “I think health going into the playoffs is more important than the seeding. If we’re fortunate enough to get the No. 1 seed, it will be great for us. But if not, then we just got to play through it.
“I think all championship teams have to win on the road anyway. So, [the No. 1 seed is] important to us, but also being healthy going into the playoffs is more important.”
The Raptors own the tiebreaker of the Cavaliers, having won the season series 2-1.
The Golden State Warriors, locked in a race for the top spot in the Western Conference standings against the Spurs, might face a similar dilemma, depending on how things transpire in the coming days.
The Warriors have a three-game lead over the Spurs with two games remaining against Popovich’s crew. They are chasing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ NBA record 72-win regular season mark as well as trying to secure home court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Warriors are also 32-0 at home this season with nine of their remaining 13 games at Oracle Arena. They need to go 11-2 to break the Bulls’ record.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr addressed the topic before his team lost to the Spurs in San Antonio Saturday night, saying that he is already finding ways to keep his team fresh by resting his guys during games and adjusting his practice schedule and routine to make sure his team remains fresh for a defense of their title.
Lue played on championship teams with the Los Angeles Lakers, so he surely understands the need to rest his stars — LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — in an effort to keep them fresh for a long postseason run.
But if it costs the Cavaliers the No. 1 seed, it will no doubt raise a few eyebrows.