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Three Keys: Cavaliers at Knicks

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank

Key: Back in the New York Groove

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This week, the Wine & Gold get right back on the road, beginning with the site of their last victory – traveling to New York to face the Knicks on Monday night.

The Cavaliers have dropped three straight since blowing out the Knicks eight days ago, including a lopsided decision to the Sixers on Sunday afternoon at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. In that loss, Cleveland once again had more turnovers than assists, with Philly jumping out to a double-digit lead late in the first quarter and pulling away from there.

At 3-10, the Knicks are bringing up the rear in the Eastern Conference and have dropped two of three since their loss to the Cavaliers last Sunday, including a heartbreaker to the Hornets last Saturday night. New York held a 15-point lead in that one before Devonte Graham hit them with a dagger – drilling his ninth three-pointer of the night with 2.8 seconds remaining to stun the crowd at Madison Square Garden.

That crowd shouldn’t be too stunned by a Cavaliers victory on their home floor on Monday night. The Cavaliers have topped the Knicks in 11 straight at the Garden – going 16-2 overall dating back to December 2014.

Key: Rookie Rumble

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We’ve still got a long way to go before we know exactly how good the 2019 Draft class will be. But tonight’s contest might be a good early-season litmus test – with two of the top five rookies selected last June taking the floor at the Garden.

R.J. Barrett, the No. 3 overall pick, has been very good so far for New York and comes into tonight’s contest as the squad’s second-leading scorer. He’s posted five 20-point performances in his first 13 games – including a 22-point effort in Saturday’s loss to Charlotte – and has tallied some solid assist and rebounding numbers to boot.

Barrett struggled in his lone meeting with the Wine & Gold last week – finishing with just nine points on 4-for-11 shooting, adding a single rebound and assist in 24 uneventful minutes.

Darius Garland, the No. 5 overall pick, finished with double-figures in that meeting against Barrett and New York. But despite doing so in four of his last five games, he’s still struggling to find his stroke – shooting just 39 percent from the floor over that stretch; 33 percent overall this season.

In last week’s two road wins over Washington and New York, the young point guard finished with six assists apiece. Since then, he’s handed out just two helpers in each of the last three losses.

Coach John Beilein would love to see him return to form tonight and over the pending roadie.

Key: Big Bounce Back

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In last week’s road win over New York, exactly one Knicks starter – Julius Randle – scored in double-figures. To Randle’s credit, he was also one of two Knicks to finish with double-digit rebounds – snagging 16 boards to go with his team-high 20 points.

Their other big man, Marcus Morris, comes into tonight’s meeting leading David Fizdale’s squad in scoring – although he struggled in last week’s loss to Cleveland – finishing with just nine points on 3-of-12 shooting.

On Monday night, Morris and his frequent nemesis Tristan Thompson will lock horns throughout the evening.

After a strong 17-point, 12-rebound effort in last week’s close defeat in Philly, Tristan’s struggles have mirrored the Cavaliers. In the blowout loss to Miami, he finished with season-lows in points (2) and rebounds (3) before bouncing back with a solid 12-point, nine-rebound showing in Sunday’s rematch with the Sixers.

Kevin Love gave the sold-out crowd at Sunday’s game a scare in the first half, clutching his right knee after an awkward spill. But Love walked it off, shot his free throws and continued to play, finishing with 12 points and six boards.

Love has been rock-solid all season – averaging a double-double (18.2 ppg, 12.1 rpg) through the first 12 contests. Love, who’s posted five 20-point performances on the season (and five such showings as a member of the Cavaliers against New York) finished with 17 points and eight rebounds in last Sunday’s victory over the Knicks at the Garden.

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