Clippers rip Cavaliers as Big 3 rest
(Associated Press) - March 20, 2017 - 12:00am

LOS ANGELES – 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.

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.

In Denver, James Harden shook off a hard fall and fatigue to lead the Houston Rockets to a 109-105 victory over Denver.

He scored 40 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and dished out 10 assists for his 19th triple-double of the season and second in 24 hours. That’s 81 points, 25 boards and 21 assists in two nights.

“Drained?” Harden asked, parroting the reporter’s question. “What’s that?”

“I’m just happy we won (coming) off a loss,” at New Orleans, Harden said.

The Nuggets held Houston to 5-of-24 shooting from 3-point range but missed too many layups and free throws as their lead over hard-charging Portland for the final playoff spot in the West was sliced to 1 1/2 games.

Elsewhere, Oklahoma trounced Sacramento, 110-94; Portland blasted Atlanta, 113-97; Charlotte held off Washington, 98-93; Chicago turned back Utah, 95-86; Memphis upended San Antonio, 104-96; and the Golden State Warriors routed the Milwaukee Bucks, 117-92.                

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