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On Wednesday night, the Cavaliers close out the unofficial end of the first half of the season against the last team they beat at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse – taking on Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks.
The Cavaliers haven’t won on their home floor since a December 23 victory over these same Hawks – a skein that was extended to 12 straight on Sunday night. That particular defeat was not just another L – the Clippers hung the worst home loss on the Cavaliers in franchise history, scoring at least 34 points in each of the first three quarters and holding Cleveland to just 19 points in the fourth, spoiling Andre Drummond’s Cavaliers debut in the 133-92 win.
The Hawks come in with the second-worst record in the East, but have won two of their last four headed into tonight’s contest, including a 140-135 double-overtime win over the Knicks on Sunday night. On Monday, they ran out of gas in a road loss to the Magic despite a 29-point effort from Trae Young.
In Cleveland’s December 23 win over the Hawks, the Cavaliers led by 13 points with just under three minutes to play before Young triggered a furious rally that got them to within three in the closing seconds. Tonight is the second meeting between these teams this season – with the next to going down in Atlanta, including a matchup on the final night of the 2019-20 campaign.
As great as Trae Young was during his rookie season out of Oklahoma, he’s been that much better as a sophomore – and he comes into tonight’s game red-hot, having scored at least 34 points in six of his previous eight games.
In Sunday’s 2OT win over the Knicks, Young tallied his 20th double-double of the season – including his fifth career game of at least 45 points and Eastern Conference-leading ninth game of at least 40, finishing with a 48-points, 13-assist effort. This year, Young has posted 27 games of 30-plus points and 17 multi-steal contests.
In four career meetings against the Wine & Gold, Young has topped the 30-point plateau twice – including a 35-point, 11-assist effort in his first meeting against the Cavs last season and a 30-point, 11-assist, four-steal performance in Atlanta’s December 23 loss in Cleveland.
Young and the man he was swapped for on Draft night – Luka Doncic – are the two leading scorers from their class. The third-leading man is Cleveland’s Collin Sexton, who was named to the Rising Stars game at All-Star Weekend on Tuesday.
Sexton, who still hasn’t missed a single game through his first season-and-a-half, notched his 50th double-digit scoring game on Sunday night and is averaging 22.4 points on 44 percent shooting from beyond the arc since that December 23 win over the Hawks.
During his sophomore season, Sexton has notched double-figure scoring in 50 of his 53 starts and has gone for at least 20 on 25 separate occasions.
Atlanta’s John Collins missed 25 games earlier this season after violating the league’s anti-drug policy, but he’s been a beast since his return.
Collins re-joined the team for the December 23 meeting against Cleveland and doubled-up with 27 points and 10 boards. He went for 16 rebounds in his next game after that and scored 34 the following night.
The former Wake Forest standout comes into tonight’s contest having scored at least 20 points in six straight contests and at least 30 in two of his previous three. And over his last eight outings, Collins is averaging 25.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per, shooting 64 percent from the floor and 83 percent from the stripe – doubling-up in seven of those eight games.
On Wednesday night, the Cavaliers will throw a bunch of different looks at Collins – including some time against Larry Nance Jr. off the bench.
Nance finally slowed down on Sunday night after posting a career-high nine straight games in double-figure scoring. Before posting a clunker against the Clippers, Nance had averaged 14.8 points and 9.0 boards over his previous nine games, doubling-up in five of those contests while shooting 57 percent from the floor, 38 percent from deep and 70 percent from the stripe.
Nance was sidelined the last time these two times met, but was outstanding in his last game against Atlanta last December – finishing with 18 points, 15 boards, seven assist, four steals and a blocked shot.