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With just a handful of games before the season’s first half wraps up, the Wine & Gold head into Tuesday’s contest needing a victory when they welcome Trae Young and the Hawks to town.
The Cavaliers dropped their 10th straight on Sunday night, falling to the visiting Thunder in what turned out to be a one-sided affair. Teams are beating the banged-up Cavs by an average of almost 21 points while averaging almost 54 percent shooting from the floor and canning 13 triples per. Other than margin of victory, OKC was right at those numbers on Sunday night.
Despite struggling through the month of February with a 3-8 mark, the Hawks come to Cleveland having won two of their last three – including eight-point wins over the Celtics and Nuggets this past week. In Atlanta’s win over Denver on Sunday night, Young topped the 30-point mark and the Hawks made 33 trips to the line.
The Cavaliers have taken three of the last four and seven of the last nine over Atlanta – including a low-scoring victory at Philips Arena back in early January of this year.
When the Rockets decided to go all in on their “small-ball” project, they wound up sending Clint Capela to the Hawks in a four-team deal. The Rockets are now in rebuilding mode while the Hawks now have the league’s leading rebounder.
One of the league’s more underrated players, Capela is now averaging a double-double in his fourth straight season – averaging 14.9 points and an NBA-best 13.9 rebounds per. At 2.19bpg, the seventh-year man from Geneva also is the league’s third-best shot-blocker and ranks seventh in double-doubles.
Capela, who finished with 16 points and 16 boards in the January 2 meeting against Cleveland, is coming off an excellent defensive effort against Nikola Jokic, holding the MVP candidate to just 15 points and 10 boards and 5-of-15 shooting.
Atlanta’s big man will have to bring it again on Tuesday, taking on the rapidly-rising Jarrett Allen, who seems to get better by the game since arriving in a trade with Brooklyn in mid-January.
On Sunday night, Allen was literally unstoppable on the offensive end, canning all 11 of his field goal attempts for career-high 26 points while leading both teams with 17 boards and three blocks. It was the 22-year-old’s fourth straight double-double, fifth in the last six games.
With that performance, the fourth-year man from Texas became just the third player in the last 30 years – joining Dikembe Mutombo and Dwight Howard – to finish with at least 25 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 100 percent from the floor.
Two of the most electric guards in the Eastern Conference square off on Tuesday night when Trae Young and Collin Sexton lock horns.
After struggling against the Nuggets on Cleveland’s recent West Coast trip, Sexton has topped the 20-point mark in each of his last five games, including a 27-point effort on Sunday – going 11-of-22 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the stripe, adding five boards and three assists.
With that performance, Sexton has now reached the 20-point plateau in 19 of his 26 appearances this season.
Sexton has also been very good against his hometown team – scoring at least 20 in each of his last three meetings with the Hawks, all victories.
His opposite, Trae Young – who recently became the fastest player in NBA history to hit 400 three-pointers – comes into tonight’s contest even hotter, having scored at least 30 points in each of his last three outings, including a 40-point outburst in a loss to Boston.
Young, the 5th overall pick in the same Draft that produced the Young Bull, now has eight 30-point performances on the season, three of 40 or more. None of those games came against he Wine & Gold – who held him to his fourth-lowest scoring total of the season, a 16-point showing on 6-of-16 shooting back on January 2.