LeBron James is unbeatable with eight days of rest. Literally: In four career games – SAMPLE SIZE ALERT! – his player efficiency rating is an astonishing 42.8.
The highest PER for a season is 31.8, set by Stephen Curry last year, and a rested LeBron blows that out of the water. ESPN found that LeBron’s scored 34 points, then 49, then 44, then 24 in his four playoff games (4-0) with eight days of rest. Why only 24? Well, the Cavs destroyed the Raptors so badly on that day, LeBron sat out the final 16 minutes of the game.
Why does all this matter? Because LeBron would have had eight days of rest heading into the NBA Finals if the Cavs swept the Celtics. They would have had eight days off. Now, they’ll settle for just six because LeBron stunk up the joint and the Celtics made a miraculous rally. Don’t laugh – that could be pivotal. The Warriors will have nine days off if they sweep the Spurs tonight.
Cleveland fans can chalk up the Boston win as lucky – rallying from down 21 in the 3rd quarter, then the Avery Bradley bounce on the game-winner – and nobody thinks the Celtics will win the series, much less another game. But big picture, this loss is massive for Cleveland because it allows the Warriors three extra days of rest.
You can have a rest/rust debate if you like, and that’s fair; but for a Warriors team that had Shaun Livingston miss Game 2 vs the Spurs, saw Stephen Curry take a shot in Game 3, had Kevin Durant miss 20 games due to injury this season – those three extra days could prove pivotal.