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Believe it or not, Monday’s matchup with the Kings marks the halfway point of the Cavaliers season – playing their 41st game of the season and third on a six-game West Coast junket.
The Cavs started the trip in style, completing their season sweep of the Blazers on Friday night in Portland. But they ran into a different animal on Sunday night in San Francisco – taking on an already dominant Warriors team in the night they welcomed Klay Thompson back from an almost three-year absence.
J.B. Bickerstaff’s squad once again proved to be no pushover, however, holding the Warriors to 40 percent shooting and just 17 points in the fourth quarter. But Cleveland also struggled offensively, and the Warriors showed why they’re the league’s top defensive squad – forcing 18 Wine & Gold turnovers and dominating them on the offensive glass.
Lamar Stevens paced Cleveland with a career-high 17 points, going 8-of-11 from the floor, adding four boards and a pair of steals.
Rajon Rondo was very good again – tallying double-digits in his second straight outing after not doing so in his previous 18 appearances this season with the Lakers – finishing with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including all three triples he attempted in the fourth quarter.
But on Sunday night, the 16-year vet didn’t get much help from the rest of the bench, which combined to go just 3-of-17 from the field.
The Kings tip off a six-game homestand on Monday night, and they could use it – having dropped five of their previous six, including a 103-88 loss on Sunday night. Like the Cavaliers, the Kings struggled offensively in the loss, shooting just 39 percent from the floor, including 22 percent from beyond the arc.
After tonight’s matchup, the Wine & Gold head East to close out their West Coast roadie – traveling to face the Jazz on Wednesday before wrapping up with a back-to-back, taking on the Spurs on Friday night and the Thunder in OKC on Saturday.
The Cavs used a huge first half – exploding for 45 points in the second quarter and 81 in the stanza – in their December 11 victory over Sacramento, snapping the Kings five-game run in the series.
The Kings hold a slight lead in the all-time series, 62-60, but that head-to-head history dates back to when they were the Cincinnati Royals, then the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, then the Kansas City Kings before settling in Sacramento.
The all-time single-game rebounding leader for the Kings is Sam Lacey – who grabbed 24 boards in a Royals’ victory in Cincinnati back in 1972 (and who played his final NBA season with the Wine & Gold in 1982-83). The single-game leader for Cleveland is Brad Daugherty, who grabbed 24 rebounds to go with 21 points in an otherwise ugly Cavs road loss in 1991.
One of the Kings’ connections to the Cavs is their assistant coach Mike Longabardi, who was on Tyronn Lue’s staff when the Wine & Gold won the World Championship in 2016.
One of the guys he coached then – and coaches now – is Tristan Thompson, who spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Cavaliers. The 4th overall pick of the 2011 Draft, Thompson still ranks 3rd in Cavs history in total rebounds (5,393) and is 4th in defensive boards (3,278). He also holds the franchise’s all-time games-played streak, appearing in 447 straight beginning late in his rookie season.