The Cleveland Cavaliers back in town to face the Pacers on Wednesday, the big question surrounding the matchup has changed of late.
No longer do we wonder if the Pacers have enough to challenge the defending champs for a win. Now we wonder: Will LeBron James actually play at the Fieldhouse?
In his last two trips to Indy, James took the night off against the Pacers, disappointing his legion of fans from a wide swath around the region, but not the Pacers who took advantage of both situations to log wins.
It seems odd that LBJ would take another night off at the Fieldhouse but the circumstances make the idea plausible. Consider that he has taken two other nights off this season, both in December and both on the second night of a back-to-back.
James did not miss a game in January, including two back-to-backs, but the Cavs also struggled, losing six of eight at one point which may have influenced his decision to continue playing to get his team rolling again. Their depth has not been real productive, which James made sure to point out during that stretch. Recently, they have shown an improved level of play, which sets up the current circumstances for a rest night.
The Cavs played a tough overtime game in Washington where James played 42 minutes. Now they have a back-to-back with the Pacers on Wednesday and the Thunder on Thursday at home on TNT. Of the two games, playing in the nationally televised tilt against Russell Westbrook seems more likely. But if Iman Shumpert is unable to go, the Cavs’ playing rotation remains top heavy and thin. Without LeBron, the top isn’t as heavy, so he may need to continue playing, regardless.
At some point, LeBron will need to rest for the playoffs and another run at a title. He is currently 11th in minutes played although he’s played a few games less than all of those ahead of him on the list. He is second in the league in minutes per game at 37.6, just behind Kyle Lowry who is averaging 37.7 minutes per game.
So again, the question heading into the Cavs’ matchup with Pacers is: Will LeBron play or sit?
The Pacers could certainly benefit again if he sits, although I’d argue that they would get a bigger boost out of beating Cleveland with LeBron on the floor. That’s what they prepared for on Tuesday and it would further validate their recent run of success, not to mention keep them in the mix for a solid playoff spot in the East.
I discussed this and more on the latest Locked on Pacers podcast. Check it out.