Simple Solution for the Cavs

By Ryan Decker

Cleveland Cavaliers (36-16) head coach Tyronn Lue hinted to the media prior to his team’s game in Oklahoma City Thursday night that he might rest all three members of the Cavs’ Big 3.

All three – LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love – played in the nine-point loss to the Thunder, amid national scrutiny of resting players for big, marque games.

Getting more rest this season has been something that James himself has talked plenty about, but hasn’t been able to get.

Well Cleveland, there’s a simple solution to all of your problems.

 

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LeBron James dribbles the ball during the Cavaliers game Thursday night against the Thunder.   Photo by Layne Murdoch / NBAE via Getty Images 

Even though just 32-years old, James is in his fourteenth season in the NBA.

He’s been to each of the last six NBA Finals, and barring an enormous upset, will play in the seventh straight this summer.

En route to yet another chance to play for a title in the Association, James has been vocal this season about two things: him playing fewer minutes, and his team getting another playmaker. In both instances, LeBron hasn’t gotten what he’s hoped for to this point.

While bringing another playmaker to the Cavs is complicated, figuring out a way for James to rest his body prior to the postseason has a fairly simple solution.

That solution – get off to better starts.

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As you can see, the Cavs have been playing a lot of close games since the start of the new year. James’ 38.6 mins per game during this 20-game stretch is equal to one of his largest amounts of time spent on the court in his career.   Table created by Ryan Decker 

Cleveland has played 20 games since January 1, playing to just an 11-9 record after struggling mightily in the first month of the new year.

During those twenty games, Cleveland only outscored its opponents by a total of 27 points, or an average of just over 1.3 points per game. Over that same time period, not only were the final scores close, but the score heading into halftime were even closer.

The Cavs led by just a combined 12 points at the break during the twenty-game stretch, or by less than one point per game.

These close games, many of which were played against teams with losing records, forced James to be on the court longer than he should be.

In Cleveland’s 13 games against teams with losing records, including four games against the two worst teams in basketball – the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns –, the Cavs only managed to outscore opponents by 3.7 points per game and less than five points per contest heading into halftime.

In James and company’s seven other games against teams with above-.500 records during the stretch, the Cavs are actually getting outscored, on average. And with the Cavs trailing for much of those games, it’s forced James to be on the floor for close to 40 minutes per game.

Cleveland may have the best record in the Eastern Conference y 2.5 games, or the fourth-best record in all of the NBA, but its struggles since the start of 2017 have been well documented.

James is averaging 37.7 minutes per game this season, which even though is his fourth fewest of his career, is the most since his return to Cleveland two seasons ago.

It might be harder than it sounds, but a simple solution to the Cavs problems and James’ desire to spend less time on the court is to get off to better starts while he’s on it in the opening two quarters.

 

 

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