Notes, quotes and observations after the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Cavaliers 108-78 Saturday night at Staples Center.
1. The Cavs sat LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – electing to play them together Sunday night against the LA Lakers -- and the fans were not happy. “We Want LeBron” chants started with 10:07 left in the second quarter and Cavs coach Tyronn Lue and J.R. Smith were paying attention.
2. “I want him, too,” Lue said. "Me, too," Smith said.
3. Lue admitted he would have watched an NCAA Tournament game over the Big Three-less Cavs. The last three March Madness games going on at the same time were Arizona-St. Mary’s, Florida-Virginia and Purdue-Iowa State.
4. I bet ABC, televising the game nationally, will love Lue’s comment. CBS-TNT broadcasts the NCAAs. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr rested his top four the previous Saturday against the San Antonio Spurs. Lue’s pre-game apology to ABC may not soften the blow of blowouts in back-to-back weeks.
5. But that didn’t change the reason Lue and Kerr chose to rest their players. James leads the league minutes per game (37.5). Irving experienced tightness in his left knee Thursday. Love returned one game ago from arthroscopic knee surgery and can’t yet go on back-to-back nights.
6. No one seems to have an answer on how to ease the grind. Until someone comes up with one, what happened Saturday will remain a fact of life for teams with a legitimate chance to win the championship.
7. Asked for his solution, Lue said, “I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s a long season. Lot of games. We have a lot of back-to-back games, which everybody has, but four in five nights are tough. Five in seven are tough. Then you come into a place and you gotta fly right back out. But it’s tough. It’s been going on for years. It’s not the first time we’ve done it, so, I think coaches are taking responsibility to try and take care of their players and make sure they get proper rest.”
8. The Clippers’ Doc Rivers doesn’t know how to resolve the scheduling problem.
9. “I do know one thing and I said it the other night. We have to protect the national games,” Rivers said. “I think we can. I think it is going to be hard, but I do think we can do it. ABC’s games used to be in the afternoon, and so they were protected because if you play in the afternoon, you don’t play the day before. Now these games are on a Saturday night, which allows the scheduling guys to play the night before. We have to treat those games like afternoon games. You don’t play the night before and you don’t play the next night after.”
10. Rivers knows that causes more problems, makes the rest of the scheduling harder.
11. “I think we maybe just have to suck that up and do it, make the rest of the schedule harder when you are not playing (nationally televised games). You may play more back-to-back games if that’s what it takes, as long as they are not nationally televised games. We have to protect our product and I don’t have the solution. It is hard -- it is impossible if you knew what went into scheduling -- but the look of back-to-back ABC national games is not good.”
12. Cavs general manager David Griffin told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that he received a call from the league office seven minutes after Lue told the media he was sitting James, Love and Irving. "Yeah, they were not happy," Griffin told Shelburne.
13. Lue answered a question in Miami on March 6 about fans who drove hundreds of miles to see James. Rivers believes there were some of those at Staples Center, too.
14. “There is a fan base that probably bought tickets tonight to see LeBron James play for the first time. They didn’t get a chance to see that and that’s not cool,” Rivers said.
15. James joked as he left the locker room that if the media had any questions for him, they could ask him on Twitter. The social media backlash may be louder than the comments from those who came to the game.
16. “Everyone is going to have an opinion, everyone is going to say something,” Tristan Thompson said. “They’ll complain now and then tomorrow LeBron will do a windmill down the lane and the tweets will all change and say ‘King James’ and they’ll say, ‘Kyrie between the legs, best handles in the game’ and K-Love’s back. It’s only a couple hours for them to be mad and then it’ll be over.”
17. I’m not sure a family that purchased tickets will share that sentiment. But Lue has to rest his stars, especially James, to give the Cavs the best chance to repeat as champions.
18. Thompson made the point best of anyone on the Cavs’ side Saturday.
19. “It’s a long season, long season. It’s a grind. Especially our Big Three, they’re a big part of our team,” Thompson said. “You guys know that, see that. For me personally, I want those guys at 100 percent. If we need to have them sit three out of four games, sit one of those games out, I’m fine with it. I want those guys ready to go. I want the triple-double LeBron in the Finals.”
20. Smith doesn’t want to experience many more nights like this because of how it affects his role. He said there was no fun in what was required of him against the Clippers, and Iman Shumpert, playing one game after spraining his left shoulder, may feel the same way.
21. “Not for me, it ain’t,” Smith said. “I’m getting too old to be doing all that. I don’t like all that dribblin’ around, step back. I like my normal game, get to the corner, catch and shoot and defend. I’m going to try to stick with that for the rest of my way out.”
22. Not much more to say about a game in which the Cavs missed their first 14 3-point attempts and finished 5 of 27 from beyond the arc.
23. The Cavs will be relatively intact (except for Kyle Korver) against the Lakers. Check back then.