The last five or so games of the regular season are by far my least favorite period of the basketball calendar. By this point, the playoff races are basically set, with the exception of a few spots here or there. The top teams are resting guys to gear up for a potential title run. The eliminated teams, likewise, are resting guys because there’s nothing left to play for. This results in games like the Cavs played tonight, getting wrecked by the Boston Celtics at home by a score of 111-99.
From the beginning, you could sense the disparity of motivation in this game. The Cavaliers, a team full of veterans and young guys on guaranteed contracts with nothing to play for, were basically run off the floor from the beginning by the Celtics, a team full of bit pieces and young guys looking to develop. Guys like Chris Babb, Chris Johnson and Phil Pressey, none of whom had a guaranteed spot at the beginning of the year, were incredibly active in this game, and their contributions completely outclassed the nominal performances of the Cavs’ bench. Additionally, Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk went bananas, going for a career-high 25 points, as well as 12 rebounds and 3 assists, in the win. The contract-lobbying Avery Bradley also played extremely well, also posting 25 points. Meanwhile the Cavaliers slummed through the game, with three players getting 15 points, but only one player, Alonzo Gee, hitting more than 50 percent from the field. The Celtics had several more reasons to go after this game than the Cavaliers did, and it was obvious from the opening tip.
However, the important thing to realize here is that this game shouldn’t be used to make ANY judgments of any member of the Cavs, just as every game since the Atlanta and Charlotte losses shouldn’t mean anything when analyzing Cavs individual parts, or as a whole. Making judgments of players on guaranteed deals after they’ve been eliminated from the playoffs is wholly useless, because there’s nothing for these players to play for. This is especially true in the final week of the season. Why should they be putting forth maximum effort? They know they’re coming back next year. They know they have nothing to gain from it, and in many cases have more incentive to turn on cruise control for the betterment of team’s lottery odds. For a team like the Celtics, it is a useful time for player evaluation, because they have multiple fringe NBA roster types on roster, a couple of rookies that can be getting valuable development time, and a couple guys entering free agency who want to make one last push towards a bigger contract. For a team like the Cavs, though, this time period is pretty much useless. the Cavs are rolling out basically the same players they have been all season because there really isn’t time to make any roster changes, and we already have 60 or 70 games of data on these players from this season. What more is there to learn about any of these players?
In this same vain, making judgments about events during a game like tonight’s as sweeping generalizations is even less productive than simply trying to evaluate the Cavs’ performances. Observe:
— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) April 13, 2014
Never mind that since the All-Star Game, Kyrie and Dion both have true shooting percentages higher than 54 percent when they share the floor, per NBAwowy.com. Ignore that they Cavs’ offense has improved significantly Post All-Star, as both players’ shooting and cohesiveness greatly improved. Completely disregard that less than a week ago, Dion and Kyrie combined to score 30 points on 24 shots with 13 assists in a throttling of the Pistons. No, it’s tonight, in a meaningless game against one of the worst teams in the league, coming off a back-to-back, that is indicative of Kyrie and Dion’s overall fit with each other.
The Cavs play their final game of the season on Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets. I don’t care whether they win or lose. They shouldn’t either. As long as they make it through the game without a significant injury, nothing about what happens Wednesday, much like the last three games, will matter towards the Cavaliers’ future.