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Three Keys: Cavaliers vs. Mavericks

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank

Key: Closing Out at Home

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On Sunday evening, and with just four games remaining, the Wine & Gold tip off their final homestand of the season, hosting Luka Doncic and the Mavericks in the second half of a home-and-home series.

The shorthanded Cavaliers – playing without starters Kevin Love and Darius Garland – dropped their ninth straight on Friday night in the Big D, with the Mavs running out to a double-digit lead late in the first quarter and barely looking back the rest of the way. Only three players from both teams notched double figures, but Dallas held the Cavs to 31 percent shooting in the first half and its second unit held a 40-12 scoring advantage, which proved to be the difference.

The last few meetings between these two clubs have not been pretty from a Wine & Gold perspective. Dallas has won each of the last five meetings by a combined average of 20.0 points per.

Key: Head of the Class

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Luka Doncic came into Friday’s contest having averaged 11.7 assists through the first three career head-to-head matchups against Cleveland. And the two-time All-Star recently handed out 20 dimes in a win over Washington in a historic performance.

On Friday night, the third-year man handed out just a single assist – a season-low – but he still had an otherwise stellar outing, leading Dallas with 24 points, eight boards and three steals in just 23 minutes of work.

Since the start of the 2019-20 season, the Slovenian superstar has tallied 90 games of 25-plus points and this season he leads the league with 21 games of at least 30 points, five boards and five assists. Doncic has 35 triple-doubles for his career – including 17 this year – and recorded 32 of those before his 22nd birthday. Magic Johnson had 13 by that point; Ben Simmons, 12.

Doncic is the highest-profile pick from the 2018 Draft in tonight’s game, but not the only one making their mark in the league.

Jalen Brunson – the 33rd pick in that Draft – has been very good off the Mavs’ bench of late, netting double-figure scoring in five of his last seven outings, handing out a team-high six assists in the win over Cleveland on Friday.

The Cavaliers tabbed Collin Sexton with the 8th overall pick in that Draft, and the Young Bull does nothing but produce on a nightly basis.

After having his 20-point scoring streak snapped at 15 against the Blazers, Sexton got right back at it on Friday night – leading both teams with 27 points, going 9-of-18 from the floor and 9-of-11 from the stripe, adding four boards and four assists.

Key: The Force is With Him

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Between late March and late April, Cedi Osman piled up nine DNP-CDs. But to his credit, he kept himself physically and mentally prepared – and it’s paid off down the stretch this season.

But the recent rash of injuries have placed him right back in the starting lineup, and he’s been rock-solid in that role. Over the last eight games, seven of them in the starting lineup, he’s averaged 15.6 points per – including 6.0 assists over his last four.

In Friday night’s loss in Dallas, Osman notched double-figures in his fifth straight game, following up with 22 points on 8-of-19 shooting, adding five boards and a team-high seven assists.

On Sunday evening, he’ll lock horns again with Tim Hardaway, Jr. – who also topped the 20-point mark in Friday’s contest, going 7-for-14 from the floor in 28 minutes of work.

Friday was actually a slow night of late for the former Wolverine, who came into that contest having gone off for 42 points against Detroit and 36 more against Miami in just the past week-and-a-half.

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