September 19, 2014

Medina
Mostly clear
45°F

Brown deciding if rest is best

Rick Noland
The Gazette

INDEPENDENCE — Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas wants to finish the regular season 5-0 and secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Coach Mike Brown, however, is considering resting some players down the stretch, even if his team is still battling the Los Angeles Lakers for the best record in the league.

“If we can get the top seed, great, we’ll take it,” Brown said Tuesday following practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “It’s not anything I’m going to kill my guys over.”

The Cavaliers (62-15) were one game up on the Lakers (61-16), who played in Sacramento on Tuesday, meaning they could guarantee themselves home-court advantage in the NBA Finals by winning the rest of their games.

The Lakers would get the nod if the teams finish with identical records, because they won both head-to-head meetings in the regular season.

“We’re treating it as if we have to win all our remaining games to get home court,” Ilgauskas said. “We don’t think the Lakers are going to lose.

“We need to win these five remaining games,” he added. “We’re fighting for something big.”

For the first time, however, the one-day, one-game-at-a-time Brown is looking at the big picture.

In his eyes, being rested for the playoffs is more important for the Cavaliers, who have virtually locked up the top seed in the Eastern Conference, than securing home-court advantage against the Lakers in the finals.

For one, it would do no good for the Cavaliers to kill themselves trying to get the best record in the league if it ultimately plays a role in them being eliminated prior to the finals.

Two, there’s no guarantee the Lakers will reach the finals, and Cleveland would have home-court advantage against any other club that emerges from the West.

Three, Brown remains confident his team is capable of winning on the road in the postseason.

“We may end up getting to the point where we may sit some guys if I feel it’s necessary,” Brown said. “I just started thinking about that (Monday) night. (Tonight against the Washington Wizards), we’re going to play our guys and try to win.”

That will likely include Anderson Varejao and Ben Wallace, who both went through a full contact practice Tuesday. If both feel OK at the team’s shootaround this morning, they will play tonight at Quicken Loans Arena.

Wallace, who has not played since breaking his right fibula Feb. 26, will likely play restricted minutes under the advice of team doctors, while Varejao, who missed his first game of the season Sunday with a right wrist contusion, will probably start if he’s ready to go.

“Hopefully, the injuries are behind us,” Ilgauskas said.

After tonight, the Cavaliers play in Philadelphia on Friday, at home against Boston on Sunday, in Indiana on Monday and at The Q against Philadelphia a week from today. Their first playoff game will be April 18 or 19.

Cleveland can tie the 1985-86 Boston Celtics’ NBA-record 40-1 home mark by winning its three remaining games at The Q, but Brown is more concerned with the big picture.

“There are some guys that could probably use a little bit of rest,” he said. “I’m not saying for sure they will, but they could.”

Brown mentioned Ilgauskas, point guard Mo Williams and veteran Wally Szczerbiak as possibilities. He did not bring up the name of LeBron James, who has played in every game this season, but there’s a good chance the 24-year-old could sit out or see his minutes drastically reduced down the stretch.

The way Brown sees it, if that ends up costing the Cavaliers the best record in the league, so be it.

“If I rest guys, whatever happens, happens,” he said. “LeBron is a big cog in our engine. If he’s out, then we could lose a game. I’m not saying we will for sure, but the percentages are a lot higher than if he plays.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rickn@ohio.net.