LeBron James looked fine in his return, good enough in fact that maybe he won’t even play Monday.
With Cleveland having wrapped up the No. 4 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs, the team’s final two regular-season games are virtually meaningless and just keeping James healthy may be its biggest concern.
James hinted Sunday he would see how his sprained ankle felt Monday morning before deciding whether to play in this matchup.
“His ankle is fine,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “He can play if we need him to.”
James returned to Cleveland’s lineup Sunday after missing one game due to the ankle injury, and scored a team-leading 17 points in 29 minutes of Sunday’s 104-92 loss to the Washington Wizards.
He did not seem to take it easy when he was on the court, driving strong enough through traffic for a two-handed dunk in the first quarter.
Cleveland finished its season series 1-3 against Washington, its possible first-round opponent in the playoffs, but that did not seem to bother James.
“It doesn’t make us worried,” he said. “We know if we face them in the first round or face them later in the playoffs we’ll be ready for them.”
Another player recovering from injury who the Cavaliers also are watching closely is Larry Hughes, who has played seven games after missing more than three months due to two surgeries on a broken index finger. The offseason acquisition from Washington has averaged 11.9 points and 27.7 minutes since returning.
Hughes had 11 points on Sunday, three days after finishing with 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in a 91-87 win over New York.
“I really prepared myself to come back this month and going right into the playoffs,” said Hughes, averaging 15.5 points in 34 games this season. “I am trying not to do too much, and trying to figure things out. The team has been playing really well. I am trying to do everything I can to make this team better.”
A first trip to the postseason in eight years awaits the Cavs, but not before Monday’s game and Wednesday’s regular season finale against the Atlanta Hawks.
James scored 36 points in his team’s last game against the Celtics, a 94-82 victory on March 24, to give Cleveland its fourth straight win over Boston. The Cavaliers are looking to sweep the season series for the first time in franchise history.
Cleveland will have a much better chance to do it if Paul Pierce doesn’t play.
The All-Star guard’s status is uncertain after he sat out with bursitis in his left elbow on Sunday in a 95-93 loss to the New Jersey Nets.
Green has received increased playing time over the past seven games, averaging 14.1 points and 20.0 minutes per game. He averaged just 1.5 points and 5.5 minutes in 14 games last month.