Cavaliers close out regular season in Washington with eyes on playoffs
LeBron James has sat out the final game of the regular season seven years in a row.
There’s no reason to think he won’t make it eight straight no-shows this season.
The priority Wednesday night for James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and the visiting Washington Wizards is to get through a meaningless season finale unscathed as they prepare for the playoffs.
It’s highly unlikely stars like James, Kyrie Irving and John Wall will play extended minutes if at all in this contest.
A lackluster affair might be on tap if a season series in which every game has essentially been a blowout is any indication. Washington (46-35) led by double digits for nearly the entire second half in a 91-78 victory Nov. 21 before Cleveland won by an average of 32.0 points in the next two meetings.
James, Irving and Wall played in every one of those matchups. This one won’t matter since Cleveland (52-29) has locked up the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed and will face Boston, while Washington is seeded fifth and will play Toronto or Chicago.
"I’ll have a talk with the coaching staff and the training staff and see what they think and recommend," said James, who played in game No. 82 three times in his first four seasons and hasn’t done so since.
Irving was held out after halftime with tightness in his right hip in Monday’s 109-97 home victory over Detroit. The All-Star guard has been undergoing treatment.
"I’d like to get him out there and play some (Wednesday), certainly not overplay him, but if he can’t, he can’t," coach David Blatt said.
Wall has played the last two games after sitting out two in a row, logging 44 minutes in Tuesday’s 99-95 double-overtime loss at Indiana and finishing with 16 points and 11 assists.
The point guard joined Marcin Gortat, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter in playing over 40 minutes. The Wizards chose to play for the victory with nothing at stake in order to prepare for the postseason and because the Pacers knocked them out of the playoffs last season.
"It gets you ready," coach Randy Wittman said. "This was a playoff atmosphere that we’re going to face Saturday or Sunday. I thought it was a good test."
Washington rested Nene, who has a sore right ankle. Paul Pierce – a nemesis to Cavaliers fans from past Boston-Cleveland playoff matchups – did not play in the second half after 17 scoreless minutes.
These teams could only meet in the playoffs in the East finals. It’s clear that the Cavaliers, owners of the NBA’s best record since Jan. 15 at 33-9 – including 19-1 at home – are gearing up for a deep run.
"We’re very playoff ready, I think," James said. "We’re just polishing up on some things that we need done to have good offense and on defense as well."