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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 Saturday night, the Wine and Gold tip off the final month of the 2020-21 regular season – and mark the halfway point of their five-game homestand – when they welcome Jimmy Butler and the Heat to town.

The Cavaliers dropped their fifth straight on Friday night – sticking with Washington through the first two-and-a-half quarters before the red-hot Wizards shifted into overdrive to close the period. Cleveland managed just 16 points and two assists in the quarter, and lost Darius Garland for the night with an ankle injury. Washington dominated the Cavs in the paint and in bench scoring, winning for the 12th time in its last 14 games.

The Heat aren’t quite that hot, but they have won five of their last seven, including a pair of victories over San Antonio just this past week. Miami hasn’t played since Wednesday, beating the Spurs in South Beach behind big games from Jimmy Butler and Eric Spoelstra’s second unit. With the win, Spoelstra became just one of six coaches in NBA history to get 600 wins with a single franchise.

The Cavaliers have faced the Heat twice in Miami this season and the results were unfortunately as they’d been in years past. The last time these two squads faced off in Cleveland, the Wine and Gold won a dramatic overtime contest. The two teams are quite different these days.

Key: The Butler Did It

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Facing off against the Heat means facing five-time All-Star, Jimmy Butler, the versatile star who’s already doubled-up twice against the Cavs this season.

After recently calling out his squad, Butler’s been putting his money where his mouth is and comes into tonight’s contest averaging 31.0 points per over his last two games. The 30th overall pick back in 2011, Butler has grabbed eight boards in each game and didn’t sink a three-pointer in either.

In his two meetings with the Cavaliers this season, Butler went for 28 points and 12 boards in the first and 15 points and 11 assists in the second. Tonight’s contest marks the former Bull’s 34th career matchup with the Wine and Gold.

Butler had some complimentary things to say about the man who’ll attempt to cool him off on Saturday night – Cavs rookie, Isaac Okoro.

With his 10-point effort on Friday night, Okoro tallied double-figure scoring in his fourth straight game, the first time he’s done so in his brief NBA career. Over the course of that four-game run, the former Auburn standout is averaging 13.8 points – with a career-best 20-point performance in the mix.

Okoro has not registered double-figure scoring in 27 games this year while drawing the opponents’ toughest perimeter cover on a nightly basis.

Key: Bullish Market

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On Friday night, the Young Bull bounced back after missing the previous three games with a concussion, leading Cleveland with 22 points in the loss.

With that 20-point night, Sexton has now topped that mark in 13 straight games. The East’s 8th-leading scorer now has 41 games of 20-plus this season; 102 over the course of his career.

In his previous eight career meetings against Miami, Sexton had only hit the 20-point plateau once before doing do in the first two meetings this year, averaging 23.5 points per, shooting 53 percent from the floor (despite struggling from deep, hitting just two of 12 three-point attempts).

Sexton will likely see a lot of Kendrick Nunn on Saturday night. The sophomore from Oakland comes into the contest playing well over the last couple weeks – averaging an even 20.0ppg over his last five games, shooting 45 percent from deep and a perfect mark from the line.

In five career meetings against the Cavaliers, Nunn has topped the 20-point mark in three of them.

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