The Cleveland Cavaliers gained a lot of rest before the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Cavs are rolling past the Toronto Raptors.
The rested team is rolling.
Why is it rolling?
Because of rolling rest.
What’s rolling rest, you ask, and why the seemingly cute introduction to this story?
Very simply, this is not a hard concept to grasp in a series which is hard to analyze in the first place. Everyone can see that the Raptors — without Jonas Valanciunas, and with DeMarre Carroll clearly not being 100 percent (physically) — just can’t keep up with the healthy and energetic Cavs. However, while quality and talent reside on the Cleveland side of the divide, this series is also as lopsided as it is because of the notion of “rolling rest.”
Here’s what we mean — again, it’s not a complicated concept.
Cleveland has, of course, created lots of downtime between series in these playoffs. Being able to sweep both Detroit and Atlanta has created full weeks off for LeBron James and his teammates. LeBron is therefore relatively fresh. The Cavaliers are deriving the benefits of a playoff march with a minimal amount of strain. This is LeBron’s perfect scenario in the quest to take down the Western Conference champions in a few weeks.
However, while Cleveland has gained added rest in these playoffs, the Cavaliers have also been the beneficiaries of playing teams which finished a six-game series (Atlanta) and a seven-game series (Toronto). Moreover, whereas the Western Conference Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors are in the midst of a three-day break between Games 2 and 3, the Raptors will not enjoy that same interruption in their series. They do not have a three-day space in which to regroup as they go home for Games 3 and 4.
It’s not just Cleveland’s abundance of rest; it’s Toronto’s lack of rest. It’s not just Toronto’s immediate transition from the East semifinals to the East Finals which is hurting the Raptors in this series; it’s the lack of a longer break within this series which stacks the deck so fully against Canada’s NBA team.
As one game rolls into another, and one series rolls into another, Toronto has lacked a break at any point in time. This deficit for the Raptors might be more important than Cleveland’s own accumulation of rest in shaping the trajectory of this series.
Keep this specific point in mind, too: Toronto was so taxed after its seven-game Miami series — with Cleveland waiting in the wings at home on Tuesday — that the Raptors were not in position to make that game competitive. Cleveland won easily, which — PRESTO! — enables the Cavs’ roster to remain rested within the course of the series, adding to the top seed’s pronounced advantage in terms of physical resources.
See, that wasn’t too elaborate. Rolling rest — not just rest itself, isolated relative to one team — is a paramount factor in Cleveland-Toronto.
Maybe the Raptors will steal Game 3 on Saturday. However, their lack of rest over the past two weeks is sure to catch up with them in Game 4.
This series was always going to be an uphill climb for the Raptors on the raw merits; rolling rest is what truly makes it impossible to see how Toronto can dig out of this ditch in the East Finals.