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Keys to the Game: Cavaliers vs. Nets

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank


Road Warriors

After wrapping up one of the most successful West Coast trips in team history, the Cavaliers return home for an MLK Day matchup with the Nets – trailing Brooklyn by only .5 game in the Eastern Conference standings as we’ve crossed the halfway point.

The Cavaliers have shocked the basketball world all season long, and wrapping up a West Coast trip with a 5-1 mark is another entry on the list. Other than a loss to the Warriors on the night of Klay Thompson’s return, Cleveland figured out ways to win in every other stop.

The most recent victory came in the trip finale on Saturday night in Oklahoma City – bouncing back from an 18-point second-half deficit to earn the win. Lauri Markkanen’s triple with 11.6 seconds remaining sealed the deal as the Wine and Gold improved to 15-9 on the road overall, 8-3 on their two West Coast swings.

On Saturday night, Darius Garland punctuated a sensational roadie with an absolute masterpiece – exploding for 14 of his 27 points in the third quarter, handing out a career-high 18 assists and simply willing the Cavaliers to the victory in OKC.

On the trip overall, Garland averaged a double-double – 19.5 points, 10.2 assists – tallying two double-doubles and his first career triple-double. The 3rd-year man from Vanderbilt seems to get better by the game.

Evan Mobley – who notched 16 of his 20 points after halftime on Saturday – had a stellar trip of his own, averaging 16.0 points, 7.5 boards and 3.5 assists on the six-gamer.

Jarrett Allen doubled-up with 13 points and a game-high 13 points on Saturday, one of his four double-doubles on the trip and his 23rd of the season overall.

The Nets won their Saturday night meeting with the Pelicans – but the victory came at a cost, as superstar forward Kevin Durant suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the first half, and will likely miss more than a month of action.

Without Durant, James Harden stepped up for Brooklyn on Saturday – finishing with 27 points and 15 assists in the victory as the Nets try to stay ahead of a crowded pack in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

The Cavaliers play five of their final seven games in January at home, but they’ll get back on the road quickly after today’s contest – traveling to Chicago for a big Wednesday night showdown with the Bulls before return for a Saturday night visit by the Thunder.


History

These two have faced each other twice this season, with Brooklyn grabbing a big early lead over a shorthanded Cavs squad and holding them off after the break in Brooklyn, then winning a close game at the FieldHouse just before Thanksgiving.

In the overall regular season series between the Cavs and Nets, Cleveland holds a 104-82 advantage. In the postseason, the Wine & Gold have faced the New Jersey Nets in three series and have won all three – in 1992, ’93 and 2007.

Four different Cavaliers have the single-game scoring mark against the Nets with 42 points – most recently Collin Sexton, who went off in Cleveland’s 147-135 win in an overtime in the first game featuring Brooklyn’s new big three. The all-time leader for the Nets is our old friend Richard Jefferson, who exploded for a career-high 42 points in a two-point New Jersey win back in 2004.


Connections

The two biggest connections in this game are obvious. The Nets roll in with a young man named Kyrie Irving, who happened to hit the biggest single shot in franchise history. Cleveland tabbed Irving with the top pick of the 2011 Draft. With the Wine & Gold, the former Dukie also won Rookie of the Year and reached four All-Star Games, winning MVP in 2014 and the Three-Point Contest in 2013.

A story that has a happier ending is the Cavs acquisition of Jarrett Allen just over one year ago.

In the four-team blockbuster, the Cavs sent guard Dante Exum and an unprotected 2022 first rounder (via Milwaukee) to Houston and a 2024 second rounder to Brooklyn in exchange for Allen and forward Taurean Prince (who Cleveland later dealt for Ricky Rubio.)

Taken with the 22nd overall pick in 2017, Allen played in 234 games with Brooklyn, posting career averages of 10.1ppg, 7.9rpg and 1.4bpg and left the franchise as its all-time leader in field goal percentage at .612.

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