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Keys to the Game: Cavaliers at Hawks

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank


Heart of the South

The Cavaliers 2021-22 preseason got off to a rough start on Tuesday night in Chicago – with the Bulls breaking the affair open early in the second quarter and running out to a 48-point lead after halftime.

Evan Mobley made his NBA debut and looked solid, finishing with 10 points, eight boards and a pair of blocks in 21 minutes as a starter. Ricky Rubio and Lauri Markkanen also looked solid in their Cavs debuts, but the bright spots were sparse as 26 turnovers and 36 percent shooting from the floor proved to be Cleveland’s undoing.

On Wednesday, the Wine & Gold travel to Atlanta for the second half of their preseason back-to-back, taking on a Hawks team that’s also coming off a one-sided loss, dropping a 26-point decision on Monday night in Miami.


Looking Back

After winning an average of 24 games per year in the previous three seasons, the Hawks made a major push in 2020-21, winning the Southeast Division en route to an unlikely run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Still, the Wine & Gold took two of three over Atlanta.

Cleveland stymied Atlanta on the defensive end for the January win in Atlanta and snapped a 10-game losing streak on Lamar Stevens’ dunk near the end of regulation at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in late February. The Hawks earned a double-digit win over a cool-shooting Cavs squad back in Atlanta in mid-March.

Collin Sexton averaged 23.7ppg in three games against his hometown team – netting 27 and 29 points, respectively, in the first two games of the series.


History

Although the Cavs took two of three last year, have won four straight home games in the series and have never lost a single game in 12 postseason matchups against Atlanta. However, the Hawks still lead the all-time series, 124-108.

The Cavaliers high-water scoring mark in the series is LeBron James, who dropped 48 points on Atlanta back in 2009. The Hawks all-time mark goes all the way back to 1972, when Pete Maravich went off for 50 points in a 120-117 win. John Johnson led Cleveland with 29 points in the loss. Rookie guard Austin Carr added 17.


Connections

Both Isaac Okoro and Collin Sexton are in for a brief homecoming on Wednesday. It’s a quick turnaround on the second half of the back-to-back, but Sexton – who grew up in Mableton, GA, about a half-hour’s drive from Atlanta – said after Monday’s practice that he’ll hopefully have some time to see his grandparents.

Hawks assistant coach Chris Jent was on the Cavaliers staff from 2006-11 and, of course, played for Ohio State in the early-90s (and was an assistant with the Buckeyes for two seasons after leaving Cleveland).

Also, Hawks forward Onyeka Okongwu – who was Chino Hills High starting center and played with all three Ball Brothers – and Cavs rookie Evan Mobley both played their college hoops under Andy Enfield at USC.

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