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Three Keys: Cavaliers vs. Heat

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank

Key: Heat Check

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On Monday night, the Cavaliers try to avoid the season sweep when they play the second half of a home-and-home matchup against the Heat at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

On Saturday night in their NBA house of horrors, the Cavaliers fell for the 18th straight occasion on South Beach, dropping the lopsided 124-109 decision at AmericanAirlines Arena – a streak that extends to January 2010. The Heat canned their first nine shots, scored 38 points in the first quarter, 44 more in the second and took a 30-point lead into the halftime locker room.

Things didn’t get much better in the second stanza, although Cleveland’s second unit did cut Miami’s lead in half in the closing moments.

The Heat – who won’t have All-Star Jimmy Butler again on Monday night – have had their way with the Wine & Gold this year, winning the first three meetings by an average of exactly 18.0 points.

The Cavaliers would love to get back in the win column after winning two straight before falling on Saturday night in south Florida.

Key: Super Sub

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Tristan Thompson is the very definition of a team player – not only accepting any role that helps the team, but excelling in it.

When Andre Drummond was dealt to the Cavaliers at the Trade Deadline – and both Thompson and Kevin Love remained – the frontline rotation needed to be realigned. Tristan – the longest-tenured Cavalier – accepted a role off the bench, and he’s been outstanding in every game since.

In his first game in the new role, he went off for 27 points and 11 boards in just under 26 minutes of work, going 11-of-16 from the floor and drilling all three triples he attempted in a home win over Atlanta. On Friday night, he was an absolute beast on both ends, especially in the decisive fourth quarter – doubling up with 10 points, 11 boards, four assists and a pair of blocks.

On Saturday night, Thompson was solid, finishing with 16 points and 7 boards on 7-for-10 shooting, but no Cavalier made a big dent in that one-sided defeat on South Beach.

Miami’s two top reserves in that Saturday night loss were former Cavalier Jae Crowder, who finished with 13 points, and veteran point guard Goran Dragic, who chipped in with 16 points, four boards and four assists.

Key: Rookie Rising

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Kendrick Nunn is putting together an incredible season for a rookie – let alone one that went undrafted this past June.

Nunn comes into tonight’s contest averaging 15.5ppg – second only behind Ja Morant among this year’s incoming class. This season, the 24-year-old Chicago native has posted 12 20-point games and a pair of 30-point outings. Two of those 20-point efforts have come against the Wine and Gold.

On Saturday night, Nunn led both squads with 24 points, going 7-for-12 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from long-range in the win. In his first game against the Cavs back on November 14, Nunn also led both teams, finishing with 23 points, eight assists and a pair of steals.

The Cavaliers’ top pick this past June made some history on Saturday night – canning two more three-pointers to become just the second rookie (along with Collin Sexton) to tally at least 100 three-pointers in a season. (He now needs 19 more to eclipse the Young Bull.)

Garland currently ranks third among all rookies in three-point makes this season and comes into tonight’s contest having posted nine straight games of at least four assists – best mark since Kyrie did so in 18 straight back in 2012.

Kevin Porter Jr. will be looking to rediscover his game following the Break. He went in having notched double-figures in seven straight games, but has combined for just five points on 1-of-8 shooting in two games since.

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