Cavs back at full strength for matchup with Pistons
With their first-round opponent the only mystery remaining in terms of their postseason fate, the Cleveland Cavaliers essentially punted a game by resting four starters.
They'll be back at full strength for at least one more regular-season contest Monday night when they host the Detroit Pistons.
Already assured of a Central Division title and the Eastern Conference's second seed, the Cavaliers (51-29) gave LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith the day off Sunday at Boston, leaving Timofey Mozgov as the only active regular starter in a 117-78 loss.
James and Irving rank among the league's leaders in minutes per game, and the rest was likely especially beneficial for Irving, who also sat out Friday's 99-90 loss to the Celtics with a sore hip. James and Love didn't play in the final quarter of that defeat.
Coach David Blatt didn't seem to be fazed by Cleveland's most lopsided loss of the season.
"Honestly, we're worried about ourselves right now and about trying to deal and balance to diametrically opposed things," he told the team's official website. "One is to keep guys in shape and the other one is to rest them. The result of the games are a little less important because we've finished in second place in the Eastern Conference and we've won the division, and that's not going to change one way or another."
Three teams are still in play to meet the Cavaliers in the first round, though Boston is the front-runner after knocking them off twice in three days.
"We'll be ready if we play them," said Iman Shumpert, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds for his second career double-double in his first start since being traded from New York.
Blatt said all four who sat will play Monday, though, as Cleveland tries to avoid dropping three in a row for the first time since a season-worst six-game skid from Jan. 4-13. The Cavaliers finish against Washington at home on Wednesday night.
The Pistons (31-49) figure to be feeling good after their largest win of the season, a 116-77 victory over Charlotte on Sunday, though it's only consolatory for a team missing the playoffs for a sixth straight year. They were one game out of eighth place after Feb. 23 but have gone 8-16 since.
"It's been frustrating for everyone involved, but I'm really proud of our players," coach Stan Van Gundy told the team's official website. "They've really hung in there and played hard and I think our fans have been tremendous."
Jodie Meeks scored 24 and has averaged 17.3 on 75.0 percent shooting over his last three games, going 9 of 13 from 3-point range. Andre Drummond had 15 points and 19 rebounds for his fifth consecutive double-double and is averaging 17.7 points with 15.6 rebounds in his last 11.
The Cavaliers have won five of six in the series, taking two in Detroit after dropping the season's first meeting at home 103-80 Dec. 28.
Irving hit six 3-pointers and scored 38 in a 103-95 win Jan. 27.