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With just two games remaining before the All-Star Break – and three days after the Trade Deadline – both the Cavaliers and the Clippers are ready to unveil their new toys on Sunday evening at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Cleveland dropped their final game before the Deadline – falling in a four-quarter thriller in OKC on Wednesday night, their 12th defeat in the last 13 outings. But that feels like a long time ago, as the Wine & Gold completed a monster deal on Thursday afternoon – exchanging Brandon Knight, John Henson and a future second-rounder for two-time All-Star center Andre Drummond, who’ll make his Cleveland debut on Sunday night.
The Clippers had been playing solid ball before being absolutely torched on Saturday night, dropping a lopsided 142-115 decision to the Timberwolves, a team that came into the contest having dropped 13 straight. The Clippers – who currently sit in the Western Conference’s third Playoff spot – also got a boost at the deadline, acquiring Marcus Morris through a three-team deal with the Knicks and Wizards.
Kawhi and Co. beat the Cavaliers up in their lone visit to LA last month – with Leonard netting 43 points in just three quarters of play – but both teams will have a different look and mindset when they square off on Sunday evening.
Tonight’s contest is one of the most eagerly-anticipated Cavalier games of the season, with All-Star big man Andre Drummond set to make his Cleveland debut.
Drummond is the inarguably the game’s most dominant rebounder. The statistics don’t lie. Heading into tonight’s matchup, the No. 9 pick of the 2012 draft leads the Association in total rebounds per game (15.5), offensive rebounds per game (4.6), defensive rebounds per game (11.2), double-doubles (42), double-digit rebound games (10), games of 15-plus rebounds (28), 20-rebounds games (12), 15-point/15-rebound games (22), 20-point/20-rebound games (9).
Drummond has tallied 402 double-doubles since 2012-13 and has 81 20-plus rebound games since then. He’s well on pace to lead the NBA in rebounding once again and has paced the league in total rebounds dating back to 2015.
In terms of sheer durability, the 26-year-old Drummond hasn’t played less than 78 games in any of the past seven seasons.
The Clippers have a star-studded lineup, but the center position isn’t one of their headliners.
Fourth-year man Ivaca Zubac has been solid for Doc Rivers squad, and one of his six double-doubles this season came against the Cavaliers in L.A. But the young big man is in for a whole different kind of test on Sunday night.
The Clippers will have to deal with the Wine & Gold’s new All-Star arrival on Sunday. But the Clippers have some All-Stars of their own for opponents to stop – led by the game’s greatest two-way talent, Kawhi Leonard.
Kawhi Leonard- or "The Klaw"- tormented the Cavs last month at Staples Center – and it didn’t take him long to do so, notching a season-high 43 points in just over 28 minutes of work – going 14-of-22 from the floor, including 6-of-10 from long-range, adding four assists, two steals and a block.
That outing was the four-time All-Star and two-time Defensive Player of the Year’s second 40-point game of the season. The soft-spoken superstar has also posted 15 games of 30-plus points and 15 more of 20-plus this season.
And he’s had plenty of success against Cleveland over the years – averaging 23.1 points and 7.5 boards while compiling a 14-3 career mark against the Cavs, topping the 40-point plateau twice and 30-or-more on two more occasions.
The Cavaliers will start out with Cedi Osman against Leonard. And while, like most opponents, Cedi struggled to defend Leonard in L.A., Osman had a pretty solid offensive night himself – netting 21 points in the loss, going 7-of-13 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc in the loss.
The third-year forward from Macedonia has been solid through the first half of the season and comes into tonight’s contest having tallied double-figures in three straight outings, including an 11-point night on Wednesday in OKC, adding five boards and four assists.
The young Cedi has also gone 7-for-15 from three-point range over his last three games.