The Cleveland Cavaliers will rest their Big Three against the Miami Heat on Monday, giving the Heat a huge break as they continue to fight for playoff implications. Meanwhile, the absence of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love could cause Cleveland to lose the No. 1 seed, only a week after looking like they might have locked it up.
The Heat are No. 9 in the Eastern Conference, tied with Chicago at a 39-41 record. The Bulls hold the tiebreaker over them, though, so Miami needs every win they can get. Facing Cleveland without their three best players is a good place to start, before finishing the season against the Wizards on Wednesday.
If the Heat end up tied with the Pacers (who are No. 7 at 40-40), then they will end up in the playoffs, even if it’s a three-way tie. Both scenarios are out of their hands, but they need at least one win (and probably both) so taking out Cleveland at home is a must. Here’s a flow chart showing how it will work out.
Cleveland, meanwhile, is in danger of losing the No. 1 seed. They’re currently tied at 51-29 with the Boston Celtics, and while they have the tiebreaker, it won’t matter if they lose and the Celtics win out. Boston finishes the year against the Nets, who are bad, and the Bucks, who potentially might not have anything to play for on the season’s final night.
The Cavaliers could have prevented this by winning on Sunday, but they blew a 26-POINT LEAD in the fourth quarter. Goodness. And here we thought Cleveland might finally be on track as a good team once again.
Why would Cleveland do this with so much on the line? It’s the second night of a back-to-back on the road, and they’ve said all season (especially lately) that they don’t care about the No. 1 seed. Clearly, they weren’t bluffing — but missing out on it will hurt a lot when it was basically right in their laps only for them to fumble it away.