The Cavaliers appear set on a decision that will send shockwaves through the Eastern Conference.
The Cavaliers will sit LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love tonight against the Heat in apparent choice of rest for the playoffs over continuing the fight for the No. 1 seed.
The Cavs are planning to start J.R. Smith, Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, and Deron Williams against the Heat, who need to win to keep pace with the Bulls for the eighth seed.
Cleveland’s lineup listed above was posted as part of the team’s media notes for tonight’s game and is subject to change.
This is huge for the Cavaliers, who are tied with the Celtics for the Eastern Conference’s best record. Cleveland has the tiebreaker, but this makes a loss to Miami – and falling to the No. 2 seed – far more likely. The Cavs lost twice to the Hawks over the weekend with LeBron (88 minutes), Irving (78 minutes) and Love (77 minutes) carrying huge loads. The Cavaliers just showed they could wallop the Celtics in Boston, so perhaps rest is more valuable than home-court advantage in that potential Eastern Conference finals matchup.
This is huge for the Celtics, who could gain the No. 1 seed. Boston closes by hosting the Nets and Bucks. The Celtics
This is huge for the Raptors, who are locked into the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. Though they present a more formidable threat to Cleveland, they’re still unlikely to beat the Cavs. Now, that matchup is more likely to come in the second round – and look like a step back for Toronto, which lost to the Cavaliers in last year’s conference finals.
This is huge for Wizards, who are guaranteed the No. 4 seed. If the Cavs fall to the second seed, Washington would avoid the defending champs until the conference finals.
This is huge for the Hawks, Bucks, Pacers and Bulls, who are all jockeying for seeds 5-8. If they can swing it, they’ll try harder to avoid No. 7 and a first-round matchup with Cleveland. It’s especially big for Miami, which is currently tied for eighth but doesn’t have the tiebreaker against Chicago.
Of course, the Cavaliers sitting their stars doesn’t guarantee the Heat a win tonight. They’ll have to earn it on the court.
That task just looks much easier now.