The Cleveland Cavaliers have made it through four games in the NBA Finals with a depleted roster and the starters routinely playing at least 30 minutes without much help from the bench. That finally caught up to them against the Golden State Warriors in Game 4, and it seems to have drawn the ire of players in the locker room.
According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, some Cavaliers players want to see head coach David Blatt go deeper into his bench with the series shifting back to Golden State for Game 5: "The Cavs are indeed playing with a lot of grit in these Finals—that the series is tied 2-2 despite their decimating injuries is a statement. But there is also a strong feeling within the team, multiple sources said, that coach David Blatt could rely more on the veterans he's been leaving unused on the bench."
Blatt hasn't made much use of his entire roster in the Finals, with a rotation of only eight players seeing action in the first three games. Joe Harris and Kendrick Perkins both saw their first action of the series with three minutes each in Game 4, but that was garbage time after the Warriors had wrapped up a victory.
Windhorst reported, as has been apparent lately, that many Cleveland starters are looking exhausted and that "players have begun to privately grumble that Blatt needs to use his whole roster." He also said veteran Shawn Marion wants to play but that there could be injury concerns that are making Blatt reluctant to use him.
"Several sources said Marion," Windhorst wrote, "who already has announced he'll retire following the season, is especially itching to get a chance. He's recently been bothered by a calf injury and also dealt with a hip injury in the regular season but is healthy and able to go."
Even before Game 4, many were noting the amount of time LeBron James was spending on the floor, including ESPN.com's Chris Sprow:
James added another 41 minutes to that total Thursday, while the other four starters each played at least 33 minutes in a game the Cavaliers lost by 21 points. But even as the lack of performance from Cleveland's entire roster comes into focus, Windhorst noted the team took off in the second half after Blatt went to a shorter rotation.
There doesn't seem to be a perfect solution for the Cavaliers right now. They were already thin before Kyrie Irving's injury and are worse off now, though they have managed to win two games and are in this series with one more game at home in Game 6.
Blatt will certainly examine all possibilities for his team over the next two days before Game 5 on Sunday night. It's hard to determine how the Cavaliers would fare if they went deeper into the bench given where players such as Perkins, Marion, James Jones and Mike Miller are in their careers.
Time also isn't on Blatt's side, as there are a maximum of three games left to play this season. He has to find the right balance of what the players need and what is in the best interest of his team winning a championship.