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Three Keys: Cavaliers at Heat

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank

Key: Sunshine Statement

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After a one-game stopover at home following a four-game trip, the Wine & Gold get right back on the road – and the current three-gamer starts out in a city that’s haunted the Cavs for years, traveling to Miami for a Saturday night showdown with the Heat.

On Thursday night, despite the returns of Kevin Love and Matthew Dellavedova to the lineup, Cleveland dropped its fourth straight – unable to complete the season sweep over the Sixers with the lopsided loss. The Cavs trailed by only a deuce at halftime, but another sluggish third quarter in which they were outscored, 27-17, proved to be their demise. Philly was again without center Joel Embiid, but got a huge lift from their bench, which outscored Cleveland’s second unit, 65-26, in the victory.

After dropping their previous six games, the Heat seem to have righted the ship – winners of now three in a row, including a home win over the Warriors on Thursday night. In that victory, Miami also saw the debut of Victor Oladipo, who finished with six points and five assists in 23 minutes of work. On Saturday night, the Heat also hope to see the return of point guard, Goran Dragic, who’s been in and out of the lineup with a back injury.

The last time the Cavaliers won on South Beach, Shaquille O’Neal was the team’s starting center. That was January 25, 2010, and the Wine & Gold have dropped 19 straight since, including a double-digit defeat back in mid-March this year.

Key: Spreading the Love

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With Jarrett Allen (concussion) and Larry Nance Jr. (illness) still out for Saturday night’s meeting in Miami, the Cavaliers will likely look to Kevin Love, who’ll suit up for consecutive games for just the third time this season.

After re-aggravating his calf strain just after the All-Star Break, Love was sidelined for the next nine games before getting the start on Thursday night against the Sixers. And in the first few moments of the game it looked like the five-time All-Star hadn’t missed a beat – drilling his first three shots from the floor and piling up 13 points in the opening quarter.

But the 13th-year man, who’d played just over 58 combined minutes all season before Thursday, ran out of gas – finishing 4-of-10 from the floor to go with four boards and three assists in 20 minutes of work.

Love missed the previous contest against Miami back in March, but has doubled-up in each of the last three meetings with the Heat – averaging 21.0 points and 12.3 boards over that span.

The former UCLA star will have his work cut out of him on Saturday night, taking on Miami’s leader in rebounding, blocks and field goal percentage – Bam Adebayo.

After a breakout season in 2019-20, the fourth-year man from Kentucky has picked up where he left off – notching double-figure scoring in every game but one this year, tallying 21 double-doubles along the way.

Adebayo has posted a pair of double-doubles against Cleveland over his career – including a 22-point, 13-rebound night in Miami’s loss last year at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. In the lone meeting with the Cavs this year, he finished with 14 points, nine boards, six helpers and a pair of blocks.

Key: Changing of the Guard

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The Heat might be getting Goran Dragic back on Saturday night, but Collin Sexton will make sure to make him work during his return.

In Thursday night’s loss to Philly, Sexton led the Wine & Gold with 24 points, going 7-of-15 from the floor and 9-of-9 from the line, adding three boards, three assists and a pair of steals. It was Sexton’s seventh 20-point outing in his last eight games, including a 21-point showing in Cleveland’s March 16 loss in Miami.

Once again the Cavaliers leading scorer, the third-year man from Alabama has tallied double-figure scoring in every game against Miami except for his first back in 2018. In nine games against the Heat, the Young Bull has averaged 16.1ppg on 41 percent shooting.

Dragic finished with 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting in a win over the Pacers last week as he works his way back to 100 percent. He led the Heat with nine assists in their mid-March victory over Cleveland and averages 14.3ppg in 30 career contests against the Wine and Gold.

Victor Oladipo should also see action again on Saturday night. He struggled in his Miami debut on Thursday, but can still fill it up from the guard spot – averaging 24.7ppg over his previous nine outings, including a 17-point effort against Cleveland while still a member of the Rockets.

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