Cleveland Cavaliers stiffed L.A. Clipper fans, national TV audience: Bill Livingston (photos)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – All in? Really?

The Cleveland Cavaliers sat their Big Three on Saturday night in Los Angeles against the contending Los Angeles Clippers. Kyrie Irving has what is supposed to be a minor knee problem that will quiet down with rest. Kevin Love is on restricted minutes after his return from arthroscopic knee surgery. Resting those two is defensible.

LeBron James, who loves the bright lights of such nationally televised games, was healthy and reportedly wanted to play.

That old devil, the back-to-back

Fans blamed coach Ty Lue on social media, but he was just being a good soldier and taking the heat.

The ultimate call was that of general manager David Griffin, who mentioned on ABC Television the crushing burden of back-to-back games on modern players with their private-plane flights and luxury hotel stays.

The Cavs play the Lakers on Sunday night, in the very same arena as the one where the Clippers game was held. The whole idea was to blow off the Clippers game and be fit and frisky for the lousy Lakers.

The NBA is allowing teams to sneer at the integrity of its product and virtually forfeit games. The Saturday night network game is supposed to be a showcase. Instead, the league’s two most popular teams, Golden State and Cleveland, sat their top players on successive weekends.

The old days

Teams used to fly commercial. Yes! They did! Oh, the inhumanity!

Five a.m. wake-up call, 7 a.m. flight.

Beat reporters straggled onto the team bus in such disarray that once the 76ers’ trainer noted a particularly disheveled scribe (not me, believe it or not) and, glancing up from his newspaper (remember them?), said, “You look like you slept with your head in a shoebox.”

Imagine what the starters looked like, after sleeping in too-short beds and playing 40 or so minutes mere hours before.

What happens in L.A. doesn’t stay in L.A.

The Cavaliers did this before this season at Memphis on the back end of a back-to-back.  I criticized them then, too.

It is utterly fatuous to say, “Then get rid of the back-to-back games.” Arena availability problems are real. Hockey teams, rock stars, circuses, rodeos, monster truck shows and all sorts of events fill arena calendars.

It is also disingenuous to say you don’t care what happens in L.A.

You would care if, say, Golden State sat Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and (currently injured) Kevin Durant here after you paid NBA prices for good seats.

My Facebook friend John Cayne said from Los Angeles: “For what our tickets tonight cost, it should be the basis for a class action lawsuit. My 9 year old is almost ruined that his birthday present was watching this 30 point blowout.”

The “race” to the top of the East

Superstar appeal made the NBA rich. Now the teams use the players’ names to pull a bait and switch on unsuspecting customers.

“We want LeBron!” chants broke out during every timeout and free throw situation Saturday.

With the 108-78 loss, the Cavs’ lead over Boston for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs shrank to 1.5 games. Powder keg guard Isaiah Thomas ripped through the Cavs’ defense often enough to defeat them in their last trip to New England.

They’re the Cavs, and no one else is

Yet almost as bothersome as the lack of competitiveness in the game was the Cavs’ smugness afterward. Lue said the team can afford such pathetic games.

“We can afford anything,” Lue said “They still gotta beat us.”

The Cavs still lead the pack. Pride still goeth before a fall too.

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