The Cleveland Cavaliers went out of their way to make sure they’re healthy heading into the playoffs, sitting nearly all of their main players as they lost to the Charlotte Hornets 120-110 on Sunday. Was this merely a precautionary measure, or is Cleveland really hurting as it prepares to face the Orlando Magic in the first round of the NBA Playoffs?

Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff sounded off on the issue postgame, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.

“We were aware as [other games throughout the NBA were] going on, but once we sat our guys at the end of the third quarter and they had the mindset that they weren’t going to go back in, I didn’t want to take any risks in putting them back in the game when they had already cooled down and then something else happened,” Bickerstaff said.

Of course, Bickerstaff was referring to other games that were concurrently going on around the league that impacted playoff seeding. Once Cleveland was locked into the fourth seed, the fourth-year head coach sat Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Georges Niang. None of them appeared in the fourth quarter, with Max Strus and Isaac Okoro playing just four and two minutes in the final period, respectively.

“So, again, you’re always aware of it,” Bickerstaff continued. “You’re taking a peek at it, but I thought the safety of our guys was the most important thing, and when they were shut off, I didn’t want to have to go ramp them back up to put them in late in the fourth quarter where something worse could happen to them, so that’s what we stuck with.”

It’s hard to argue with his rationale, as the Cavs had nothing to play for once their playoff seeding was confirmed. The bigger question is how healthy are they heading into the first round?

Cavs need to be at full strength in order to avoid more playoff disappointment

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach JB Bickerstaff signals to the bench during the second quarter against the Utah Jazz at Delta Center.

© Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Notably, backcourt duo Donovan Mitchell (left knee bone bruise) and Darius Garland (back contusion) were inactive Sunday. Sixth man Caris LeVert, shooting guard Sam Merrill (neck strain) and forward Dean Wade (sprained knee) all were out of commission as well. While Mitchell, Garland and LeVert are all listed as day-to-day the other two are not certain to be ready for the playoffs, via ESPN.

Merrill and Wade are valuable bench pieces, averaging 8.0 and 5.4 points per game, respectively. If they were each to sit out, that’s 13.4 points that Cleveland has to replace heading into the playoffs. That’s not even including Mitchell, Garland and LeVert possibly not being at 100%.

Bickerstaff still has not won a playoff series since taking over as head coach. After losing to the New York Knicks in five games in last year’s first round, Cleveland needs to be as healthy as possible to avoid another disaster. The Magic are a formidable opponent, sporting young stars Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. The 21-year-old Banchero already earned All-Star honors in his second season. Most importantly, the team is fully healthy.

This series may have long-term implications as well. If the Cavs suffer another embarrassing loss, there’s no telling if Mitchell could lose his patience. Time will tell if Cleveland has what it takes to finally put its postseason demons behind it in its post-LeBron James era.