LeBron James played all but 17 minutes of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first round sweep over the Indiana Pacers. He’s averaging 43.8 ticks per game overall, a ridiculously high number no one else in the postseason is matching thus far.
Might the Cavaliers be worried about overworking James, their 14-year veteran, who has logged the fourth-most playoff minutes in NBA history, according to Basketball-Reference.
As head coach Tyronn Lue said, per ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin:
“I mean, I don’t understand why people make a big deal out of minutes,” Lue told reporters Wednesday, when his team had its first full practice session as a group since sweeping Indiana on Sunday. “He had a week off before the series started. We won four straight games, and then he had a week off again. So next [series] he might play 48 minutes.”
When the Cavaliers’ second-round series against the Toronto Raptors or Milwaukee Bucks tips off on Monday night, James will have had a full week off to recover from the push and pull of playing so many minutes. So there’s that. Cleveland will never not be cognizant of his minutes totals, either. So there’s also that.
But you would expect the team to be more cautious with its best player knowing he just led the NBA in minutes per game during the regular season. Total minutes are what matters; James only played 85 more this season than he did in 2015-16. Still, it’s kind of surreal to see him get so much burn without visible consequence—almost too good to be true.
Not that the Cavaliers have a choice in the matter, though. They need James on the floor to even be a remote threat. In the 17 minutes he didn’t play against the Pacers, they were a minus-12. Minus. Twelve. So unless the Cavaliers get in the habit of blowing teams out by the end of the third quarter, don’t expect James’ minutes to go own.