BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics could certainly use the top overall seed in the East more than Cleveland. It looks like the Cavs aren’t going to put up a huge fight for it.
Both Boston (51-29) and Cleveland are tied for the best record in the East, each with two games remaining.
All indications are that the Celtics will play their usual starting five tonight against Brooklyn (20-60), but the Cavs have other plans.
Their lineup for tonight’s game at Miami does not include LeBron James, Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving. In addition, Tristan Thompson is expected to miss his fourth straight game due to a thumb injury.
Not only will the Celtics face a weaker foe in their quest to take a one-game lead in the East tonight, but Cleveland made it that much easier by having their top four players sit out a game that their opponent, Miami, desperately needs to win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Miami (39-41) comes into tonight’s game against Cleveland tied with Chicago for the eighth-best record in the East. But if the playoffs were today, they would be ninth -- just outside of the playoffs -- due to the Bulls having the tie-breaker.
Cleveland is doing this to give their core guys rest before the playoffs, something head coach Tyronn Lue has said he would do.
However, it didn’t feel like a sure thing because of the erratic play of the Cavs lately, which has led to them losing some games that frankly, they should not have lost.
Case in point: Sunday’s 126-125 overtime loss at Atlanta, a game in which the Cavs led by as many as 26 points … IN THE FOURTH QUARTER!
James and his teammates pointed out some bad calls in the fourth that contributed to the loss. They were right.
When the two-minute report the league releases in connection with that game comes out, there will be one or two missed calls by the refs that in hindsight, probably cost the Cavs the game.
But when you’re up by 26 points in the fourth and you’re the defending NBA champions, the last thing you should be talking about is blown calls.
This move has the feel of a win-win-win for the three teams involved: Miami, Cleveland and of course, Boston.
The Heat get a huge win to bolster their hopes of getting one of the last playoff spots that’s up for grabs.
Cleveland’s core gets rest, something they have had little of this month.
If Cleveland loses tonight and the Celtics win, Boston then controls its own destiny as far as getting the top overall seed. All they would have to do is win their regular season finale at home against the Milwaukee Bucks whose playoff position might be established before tip-off and they might take a cue from the Cavs and rest their core guys in that game on Wednesday.