Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he decided to rest both All-Stars following Cleveland's 135-130 win in Atlanta on Friday, when James logged 39 minutes and Irving 36. Despite Irving, 24, being significantly younger than the 32-year-old James, Lue said the time off is necessary for both players.
"He needs the rest also," Lue said of Irving. "For what we're trying to do and where we're trying to go, he needs the rest also."
What Cleveland is trying to do is make the Finals for a third straight year, and seventh in a row for James.
While James used to buck against scheduled rest, Lue has found him to be more flexible this season.
"He's gotten better," Lue said. "He understands the big picture and what we're trying to accomplish, and the guy's played so many minutes over the course of his career. He went to six straight Finals. He has to take some rest at times and when I talk to (James' trainer) Mike Mancias and our training staff and they see that it's a game where he should take off then that's what I do. So he understands that. As much as he doesn't like it, he has to deal with it."
The Cavs are 0-5 on the season when James sits out.
Lue said he will continue to look for rest opportunities for James over the final 21 games of the season.
"He's going to have to take a couple more off before the end of the season comes up," Lue said. "So we just got to see how his body feels, how many minutes he played the game before and if we're on a back-to-back and what makes the most sense to get the most rest. So tonight was one of those games."
It is the second time in the Cavs' last three trips to Miami that James was held out against his former team. James revealed after winning Game 7 of the Finals last June that he was motivated to win a championship for Cleveland because someone in the Heat organization told him he was making the biggest mistake of his career by leaving Miami.