Five Keys: Cavaliers vs. Pistons

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Key: Pistons Preview

After wrapping up the top spot in the Eastern Conference on Monday night, the Cavaliers close out the regular season against the squad they’ll be facing this weekend (and at least three games beyond that) – taking on a Pistons team that’s returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09.

The Wine and Gold wrapped up homecourt throughout the Eastern Conference bracket thanks to a convincing 109-94 win over the Hawks on Monday night at The Q. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving combined for 79 points and Kevin Love notched his team-leading 35th double-double of the season.

None of the Wine and Gold’s Big Three will be in action for the season finale on Wednesday night, as both squads will likely sit most of their starters with the First Round matchup already set.

The Pistons punched their postseason ticket last Friday night in Washington – dropping the Wizards, 112-99, behind Reggie Jackson’s 39-point outburst.

It should be an interesting First Round matchup starting this weekend, but neither squad will show the other any cards on Wednesday night.

Key: Working Class Hero

Regardless of who Tyronn Lue rests on Wednesday night, one player that will definitely be in the starting lineup is Tristan Thompson – who closes the regular season having played in 370 straight games, currently the longest streak in the NBA and in Cavaliers team history.

Wednesday night will mark the former Longhorn’s fourth straight season of going 82-for-82. Thompson’s been both consistent and consistently good – leading all reserves in rebounding again this season and is 15th in the NBA overall at 9.1 rpg. With his 10-board effort on Monday night, Thompson has pulled down double-digit boards in 43 games this season.

Thompson continued to climb through Cleveland’s all-time rebounding ranks and now sits 4th in offensive rebounds (1,304), 9th in defensive rebounds (1,207) and 9th in total rebounds (3,311).

He’ll have to be at his best in a few days when the postseason tips off and he has to battle Andre Drummond – who had a season for the ages, finishing with 66 doubles, averaging 16.2 points and a league-leading 14.8 boards per game.

Key: Love the Long-Ball

The Cavaliers close the season as one of the top three-point shooting squads in the league – averaging 10.8 treys per contest after having knocked down a total of 873 with one game to play (both good for 2nd in the NBA). They set a franchise mark and tied an all-time NBA mark by hitting double-digit triples in 16 straight contests and have done so in 18 of their last 19 games.

Cleveland features three of the Eastern Conference’s top 15 long-distance marksmen, including J.R. Smith – who’s drilled more bombs than anyone in the Conference since his arrival on the North Coast last January.

And even with Swish resting on Wednesday night, they can still dial long-distance effectively with reserves like James Jones, Channing Frye and Matthew Dellavedova (if he suits up for the finale).

Detroit has also been very good from beyond the arc this year – setting a franchise mark with 724 made threes this year after recording 703 last season. This year, for the first time in franchise history, the Pistons had four players make at least 90 three-pointers.

Key: Insurance Policy

Whether he’s ready to go on Wednesday night or not, longtime NBA veteran, Dahntay Jones, joins the Wine and Gold as somewhat of a postseason insurance policy in the backcourt.

As Mo Williams continues to recover from a left knee ailment that’s kept him out of the lineup through much of the season’s second half, the Cavaliers are determined not to get caught shorthanded as the playoffs progress.

The 6-6, 225-pounder has played in 622 games over the course of his 11-year NBA career after being drafted with the 20th overall pick out of Duke in 2003. After stints with Memphis, Sacramento, Denver, Indiana, Dallas, Atlanta and the Clippers, Jones started 39 games for the D-League’s Grand Rapids Drive – averaging 15.7 points on 55 percent shooting.

Over the course of his career, Jones has appeared in 49 playoff games – starting 16. The Cavaliers may not need the rugged veteran as they make another run at the Ring, but it’s good to know he’s there just in case.

Key: Curtain Call

On a veteran squad as loaded as the Wine and Gold, it’s difficult for younger players to get a good run. But Wednesday’s contest – especially with Mo Williams and Iman Shumpert on the shelf – will give some reserves a chance to blow it out in front of the home crowd.

Both Sasha Kaun and Jordan McRae were assigned to Canton for Tuesday night’s D-League Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 – with Kaun finishing with 15 points on 6-7 shooting to go with nine rebounds, three steals and three blocks and McRae adding 21 points, four boards and five assists.

After getting a DNP-CD in Monday’s win over Atlanta, Timofey Mozgov will likely see some action on Wednesday night as he continues to search for the last season’s mojo. Consummate pro, James Jones will see action and is always ready to roll when his number is called. Richard Jefferson has been rock-solid all season in the Shawn Marion-backup small forward-wildcard role for the Cavs this season and he’ll also get a good run against the Pistons on Fan App Night.