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Three Keys: Cavaliers at Grizzlies

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank

Key: Bear Down

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The Cavaliers six-game trip rolls on after a two-game stop in Los Angeles, but it doesn’t get any easier as they take on a red-hot Grizzlies squad that’s looking to win their seventh straight.

After taking the first two games of the roadie – an overtime thriller in Detroit and a convincing win over Denver – the Wine & Gold took two on the chin against the heavyweight Lakers and Clippers. In Tuesday’s loss at Staples Center, Kawhi Leonard went off for 43 points in three quarters as the Clips used a 13-0 run just before intermission to flip the contest their way.

The Grizzlies earned their sixth straight win on Tuesday night – dropping the Rockets by 11. Led by their top pick in this June’s Draft – Ja Morant – Memphis has been scoring in bunches, netting at least 110 points in 12 straight contests. The last game the Grizz failed to top that mark was a 114-107 loss to the Cavaliers back on December 20 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Overall, the Cavaliers have won eight of their 11 over Memphis, outscoring them by nearly 10 points per over that stretch. The Wine & Gold close out their 11-day trip on Saturday night, taking on the Bulls in Chicago.

Key: Rookie Report

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Tonight’s contest will feature two electric rookie point guards.

Ja Morant, the 2nd overall pick this past June, has been outstanding all season and could be headed for an All-Star appearance. He’s also coming off an historic night in the Grizzlies’ recent win over Houston – netting 26 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the floor to go with eight assists, becoming the first rookie in league history to post such numbers.

So far this season, the Murray State standout has topped the 20-point mark in 16 games and went for 30 in an early-season win over Brooklyn. He’s also posted seven games of double-digit assists, including an 11-assist outing in late December against the Cavaliers.

Darius Garland isn’t putting up quite the numbers that Morant is, but he’s been improving by the game and in Tuesday’s loss to the Clippers posted his first career double-double – finishing with 14 points and 10 helpers.

The 5th overall pick has also drilled at least two triples in each of his last 10 games, longest streak by a rookie this season. Over that 10-game stretch, Garland is averaging an even 16.0ppg and 5.6apg, shooting 46 percent from the floor and 86 percent from the stripe.

Key: Guard Duty

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Like the Wine & Gold, the Grizzlies have gotten outstanding offensive production from both of their guards.

Third-year man Dillon Brooks is having an outstanding season with the Grizz, averaging a career-best 15.1ppg. And aside from a recent clunker against the Warriors, he’s been almost as hot as Morant – averaging 19.6 points per over his last eight outings, including a 24-point outing in Memphis’ Tuesday night win over the Rockets.

On Friday night, he’ll square off with the Wine & Gold’s leading scorer, Collin Sexton.

The Young Bull is coming off a team-high 25-point performance in Tuesday’s loss in L.A. – going 10-of-18 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, his 11th 20-point outing in his last 17 games.

Sexton has scored at least 16 points in 12 straight games, with his last single-digit performance coming in Cleveland’s win over Memphis back on December 20. In that contest, the sophomore from Alabama went just 2-of-12 from the floor for nine points – just his third game this season failing to reach double-figure scoring.

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