CLEVELAND (AP) LeBron James is taking one last game off before things get serious.
Cleveland’s star sat out the Cavaliers’ season finale against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, giving himself more rest in advance of the NBA playoffs opening this weekend.
James, who also missed Sunday’s game in Boston, is the only starter and rotation player Cavs coach David Blatt is not playing as the team concludes its regular season. All-Star guard Kyrie Irving is expected to get some playing time after being slowed by a sore hip. Irving missed two games last week and sat out the second half of Monday’s game against Detroit with soreness in his hip.
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The Cavs will open the playoffs at home on Sunday against the Celtics, the team Blatt rooted for growing up in Massachusetts and a team James knows well from previous postseasons.
The Celtics eliminated the Cavs from the playoffs in 2010, James’ last season in Cleveland before he left for Miami.
”I’ve seen them numerous times in my career,” James said. ”It’s definitely going to bring back memories to play against them, and also to go back to the Garden. It should be exciting.”
Blatt said the decision to rest James was made last week, shortly after the Cavs secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Blatt said he discussed it with James on Tuesday and they felt ”it was best” to give him a second day off.
The fifth-seeded Wizards, who will open the playoffs against Toronto or Chicago, also rested some key players.
Washington coach Randy Wittman gave four of his starters the night off, and planned to limit the minutes of center Marcin Gortat. All-Star point guard John Wall, shooting guard Bradley Beal, small forward Paul Pierce and power forward Nene were healthy scratches.
”We want them to be rested up, so they’ll be ready to go on Saturday in the playoffs,” Wittman said. ”They’ve all had long seasons.”
Shooting guard Rasual Butler made his first start of the season, joining point guard Ramon Sessions, small forward Otto Porter, power forward Kris Humphries and Gortat in the lineup.
By skipping the regular-season finale, James missed 13 games in his first season back in Cleveland. The Cavs entered the game 2-10 without him.
The four-time league MVP finished averaging 25.3 points and 6.0 rebounds – his lowest totals in both categories since he was a rookie. James averaged 7.4 assists, his highest total since 2009-10.
James is not considered a front-runner for this season’s MVP with the award likely to go to Golden State’s Stephen Curry or Houston’s James Harden.
Asked who he would vote for, James smiled and came up with a quick candidate.
”Kevin Love,” he quipped, looking toward his teammate’s locker.