Clippers rout resting Cavs 108-78

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — When the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to
rest LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in the same
game, they also provided a welcome boost to the Los Angeles
Clippers, who got to sit their own starters for the entire
fourth quarter of a predictably one-sided victory.

The fans paying for high-priced Staples Center seats, or tuning
in for a national television game between title contenders?

They all lost out, thanks to the unsavory choices prompted by
the NBA’s demanding schedule.

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Blake Griffin scored 23 points and the Clippers snapped their
three-game losing streak with a 108-78 win over Cleveland on
Saturday night.

But the Clippers’ domination of the Cavs’ supporting cast added
another chapter to the NBA’s long-running debate on rest.
Coaches are increasingly choosing caution over competitiveness,
and both Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue and Los Angeles’ Doc Rivers
expressed ambivalence about the choice Lue felt he had to make.

“There is a fan base that probably bought tickets tonight to
see LeBron James play for the first time,” said Rivers, who
rested Griffin on Thursday. “They didn’t get a chance to see
that, and that’s not cool.”

The crowd hated Lue’s decision, reacting with confusion when
the starting lineups were announced and then booing James when
he joined the Cavs on the bench early in the first quarter. “We
Want LeBron!” chants were taken up by much of the crowd on
several occasions.

“I heard,” Lue said. “I wanted him, too.”

Lue said Love already was scheduled to sit out this game in his
comeback from left knee surgery, and Irving left Thursday’s
game at Utah early with tightness in his own left knee. With
the Cavs beginning a stretch of eight games in 14 days, Lue
also decided to rest James instead of allowing him to play
without his full supporting cast.

“It’s a long season, and a lot of games,” Lue said. “We have a
lot of back-to-back games. Everybody has. Four in five nights
are tough. Five in seven are tough. … But it’s been going on
for years. It’s not the first time we’ve done it. I think
coaches are taking responsibility, trying to look after their
players, make sure they get the proper rest.”

James didn’t speak to reporters before heading out into the
Hollywood night, but Lue said the superstar didn’t like the
decision. Lue said his three stars all will return Sunday night
against the woeful Lakers.

CLIPS CRUISE

The result was not surprising — and perhaps just what the
Clippers needed to shake up their team in a humdrum March. Los
Angeles (41-29) had lost six of 10, and Oklahoma City is a
half-game behind the Clippers for fifth place in the Western
Conference.

J.J. Redick added 16 points as the Clippers swept their season
series with the Cavs. Griffin poured in 13 points in the third
quarter while Los Angeles pulled away.

“Playing against the best is the reason everyone wants to play
in the NBA,” Griffin said. “But at the same time, we’ll take
all of these wins. It’s a bit of both. Not clear-cut one way or
the other.”

THE LEFTOVERS

Channing Frye, Deron Williams and J.R. Smith started for
Cleveland in the stars’ place along with Iman Shumpert and
Tristan Thompson. All five starters hit double figures.

The Cavaliers (45-22) have lost five of eight, but still lead
Boston by 1 1/2 games atop the Eastern Conference. Richard
Jefferson scored 12 to lead the Cavs in their lowest-scoring
game of the season.

NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME

For the second straight week, ABC’s showcase Saturday night
game was dampened by a coach’s decision to sit his best
players. Golden State’s Steve Kerr sat Stephen Curry, Klay
Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala for a showdown with
San Antonio last week.

Rivers said the Saturday national games used to be protected
against these problems because their afternoon starts prevented
a team from being forced to play Friday night. The showcase is
now an evening game.

“I think that we have to protect the national games,” Rivers
said. “We have to treat those games like they’re afternoon
games, and you don’t play the night before, and you don’t play
the next night after. It sounds so easy, but it is not, because
it’s hard to schedule around that. It makes the rest of the
schedule harder … but the look of (these last two)
back-to-back ABC national games is not good.”

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Shumpert played after spraining his left shoulder
Thursday. … Kyle Korver also missed his sixth straight game
with a foot injury. Lue still hopes he can play on this road
trip.

Clippers: Rivers flatly rejected a widely reported rumor of a
possible reunion with the Orlando Magic: “I have a past with
the Magic. I have no future. My future is here.” Rivers coached
the Magic from 1999-03. … Chris Paul went 0 for 8 from the
floor, but had seven assists.

UP NEXT

Cavaliers: At the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

Clippers: Host the New York Knicks on Monday.

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