Cleveland has wrapped up home-court throughout the playoffs and could take it a little easy tonight. If they lose their remaining games and LA wins their remaining games, the records would be even with Cleveland holding the tie-breaker. Both Mike Brown and Lebron James are leaning towards a bit of a rest:

“I’m not sure there is a right way to do it,” Brown said. “It’s a luxury to be able to rest players so we’re going to want to do that.”

LeBron James has made it clear he favors taking some time off. He’s a little banged up and has been dealing with a sore left elbow, among other minor maladies, the past few games. James will probably get at least two of the remaining five games off. Which ones, however, are part of the process the team is considering now.

“You’d love to get some rest before the playoffs start,” James said. “I think there’s a few guys who want to keep playing but there’s a few guys who want a little rest and I’m one of them. Once we’ve clinched, the games take on a different meaning.”

Check out the Rapcast with phdsteve and myself where the conclusion is that the Raptors must win at least one of the upcoming three games – in Cleveland tonight, Boston tomorrow or the Hawks on Friday. Going 0-3 here could very well spell the end of our playoff chances as Chicago faces a Bogut-less Bucks team, the unmotivated Cavaliers and the pathetic Nets. They’re at home to Milwaukee tonight. You can click the play button below or listen directly in iTunes (24:25 min). You may also download the file (8.6MB).

Some of the topics of the podcast include the defense in the Golden State game, our coaching staff, Turkoglu coming off the bench, a look at the remaining schedules, what our chances are against Cleveland and more.

There’s not much to be said at this point in the season, we’ve played 76 games and the time for tweaks and adjustments is over. We’ve turned the starting lineup inside out and although it’s resulted in improved overall defense, we’re still prone to a stinker like we saw against Golden State. The good news is that in our three meetings with the Cavs thus far, we’ve won one (remember the joy of opening night?), lost a close one in Cleveland and then lost at home in OT. The bad news is that over the last six years, our record against Cleveland is 4-21. Expecting to get as many wins over Cleveland in 7 games as we have in 25 is asking too much, but stranger things have happened. Haven’t they?

Usually at this point in the season teams are talking about tightening up certain parts of the offense or defense, maybe giving scrubs playing time so they could come in handy during the playoff-run, resting starters, honing their strengths or trying to new out-of-bound plays, but none of that holds true for the Raptors who still haven’t figured out the right starting five for the team. If that isn’t an indictment on Triano and his staff, I don’t know what is. They coasted in the GSW game like they were locked into the fourth seed instead of hanging on by a thread, that lackadaisical attitude is so frustrating to see as a fan that you wonder whether the playoffs mean anything to these guys.

Maybe the Raptors are a bunch of guys that really do want to win and are truly upset when they get shown up at home by a team with 5 road wins all season, maybe they just don’t have the communication skills to openly express their disgust with everyone else and let the air out. I think we’ve had a total of one “player’s only” meeting all season long, it’s like our remedy to poor play is to just show up in practice the next day, run through some drills, feel good about ourselves and move on. If we’re seeing problems in Game 76 that were there in Game 6, isn’t that a massive problem?

If you bother to listen the podcast, you’ll see that I find myself in a very odd position: I’m just waiting for this season to be over and done with so some real fixes can be applied. Sure, I wouldn’t mind going to a few playoff parties, maybe even a game and if they win that game, maybe even a roadtrip, but the realistic chance of playoff success is so small that even an eternal optimist will think twice before being offered a good price for Game 6 tickets. At the start of the season my expectations were of a playoff round win, perhaps as the 4th or 5th seed going up against a team like Miami or Washington (yeah, before all that), but now the choice seems to be missing the playoffs or getting trounced in the first round. I’d prefer the latter, but just barely and as long the trouncing isn’t bordering on humiliation.

Have you seen that movie Vertical Limit where that girl’s hanging from the cliff and trying to swing herself either way trying to lunge herself towards a rock with some grip? We’re a lot like that, climbing the cliff being our hopes of salvaging this season, the girl being Triano and the rock being a player that could propel us through. Perhaps that rock is Hedo Turkoglu who will “Magic”ally find his game even though he couldn’t find it against a GSW D-Leaguer, or maybe it’s Marco Belinelli who’s been rotting on the bench so long that he recently confused an orange for a basketball. Or maybe it’s Marcus Banks whose defense could prove vital against Delonte West, Mo Williams and Boobie Gibson – imagine that? Banks playing 44 minutes and going 6-8 for 18 points, 5 steals and 8 rebounds. Wow!

On a serious note, I’d give Belinelli some burn, you literally have nothing to lose at this point. Maybe, just maybe, he could find the form he had during that stretch when we beat the Lakers. All it takes to win a game sometimes is a huge quarter by a hot player and right now, other than Bosh and maybe Jack at times, there is nobody who could remotely be considered a game-changer for us. I’m not saying Belinelli is, I’m saying he’s streaky enough to be one. Look at his game log, when he does play he’s not even been that bad. If Triano brought Wright out of the doghouse and he came around (barely), why can’t Marco?

Anyway, hopefully Bosh’s Player of the Week honor isn’t going to be the highlight of this season.