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Three Keys: Cavaliers vs. Grizzlies

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank

Key: Road Warriors

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After weathering the longest trip of the season’s first half, the Wine & Gold finally return for their first home game of 2021 – welcoming the Grizzlies to town for the first half of a Western Conference back-to-back.

On Saturday night, the shorthanded Cavaliers – playing without their starting backcourt, among other injuries – fell in Milwaukee to close the six-game trip at 2-4. The Cavaliers rallied back from 19 points down in the first half, tying the game just before half. But the Greek Freak-less Bucks found their rhythm right before intermission and pulled away from Cleveland in the second stanza.

The banged-up Grizzlies, also without the services of their top players – including Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. – snapped a three-game skid on Friday night, closing out their homestand with a win over the equally-shorthanded Nets, playing without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

The 5-5 Cavaliers – who inked guard Yogi Ferrell to a 10-day deal on Monday morning – got one of their two wins on the trip last Thursday night in Memphis – with Isaac Okoro making big plays on both ends to ice the affair.

Key: Paint Patrol

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As the Cavaliers try to work through a rash of early-season injuries, there’s been one constant in the starting lineup all season: veteran big man Andre Drummond, who registered his 10th straight double-double to start the season on Saturday night.

In that 10-point loss, the two-time All-Star from UConn had his best statistical night of the season – finishing with 26 points and a NBA-season-best 24 boards, going 11-of-23 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the stripe, adding three assists, a steal and a blocked shot.

That outing was Drummond’s 42nd career game of at least 20 points and 20 boards and his fourth such career game against the Bucks.

In last Thursday’s meeting with Memphis, Drummond finished with 22 points and a game-high 15 boards, going 9-of-20 from the floor, adding three assists – including the dime to Okoro for the game-deciding dunk – and a pair of steals in the win.

Memphis’ starting big man, Jonas Valanciunas was pulled from Friday’s game against Brooklyn due to health concerns, but on Sunday announced on Twitter that he didn’t test positive for COVID-19.

The No. 5 overall pick back in 2011 led the Grizzlies in last Thursday’s meeting – doubling-up with 17 points and 10 boards in the loss, his third double-double in his last four matchups against the Cavaliers.

Key: Mr. Everything

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Larry Nance Jr. is the Cavaliers do-it-all forward – and with bodies coming in and out of the lineup all season for Cleveland – he’s been invaluable so far this season.

In last Thursday’s win over the Grizzlies, the 5th-year man from Wyoming made team history – becoming the first Cavalier to go at least 7-for-7 from the floor and 4-for-4 from long-distance in a game. In that victory, Nance notched 18 points, three boards, four assists and three steals – canning every field goal attempt that evening.

Nance wasn’t quite as flawless on Saturday night in Milwaukee, but he still registered his second straight double-figure effort – finishing with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-6 from long-range, adding three boards, two assists and four steals.

After four lukewarm seasons in San Antonio, Kyle “Slo-Mo” Anderson is having a career-year in Memphis – averaging 14.1ppg, over six points better than his previous high.

The former Bruin doesn’t do anything fancy – thus the nickname – but he’s been a solid contributor for the Grizz, slowing down after a hot start to the season but still scoring the ball with consistency, netting double-figures in six of Memphis’ first nine outings.

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