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Three Keys: Cavaliers vs. Raptors

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank

Key: Red-Hot Raptors

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The Cavaliers homestand rolls on, but things don’t get any easier on Thursday night – welcoming the red-hot Raptors to town looking to extending their recent win streak to nine games.

After snapping their seven-game skid on Monday night in the Motor City, the Wine & Gold fell on Tuesday night back home against the Pelicans. New Orleans scored 74 points before intermission and added 30 more in the third to keep Cleveland winless at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in the month of January – with one more shot at a victory when the World Champs come to town on Thursday.

The Raptors extended their win streak to eight games on Tuesday night, blowing out the Hawks north of the border. With the victor, Toronto maintains the second-best mark in the East, trailing only the scorching Bucks, who’ve won nine straight of their own.

The Cavs have dropped both decisions to the Raptors this season, both meetings at Scotiabank Arena, including a 20-point loss on New Year’s Eve. Tonight’s meeting wraps up the season series between these two squads.

Key: Straight to the Point

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In Tuesday’s win over the Hawks, Kyle Lowry passed Jose Calderon to become the all-time assist leader in Raptors team history – finishing with 12 points and a team-high 11 helpers.

In now his 14th season out of Villanova, Lowry has exorcised the ghosts of his past and is having one of his best seasons as a pro – averaging 19.8 ppg, good for second on the Raptors, and leads the squad with a 7.4 apg mark.

He’s had some big nights against the Wine & Gold over the course of his career – topping the 20-point plateau in both contests this season – doubling-up with 20 points and 11 assists in the opener and going off for 24 in Toronto’s victory on New Year’s Eve.

On Thursday night, Lowry will lock horns primarily with the Young Bull, who’s coming off a team-high 24-point showing in Tuesday night’s loss to New Orleans. On the night, Sexton went 9-of-20 from the floor, adding three boards and four assists.

That performance was Sexton’s 16th 20-point effort in his last 24 games. In the month of January, the sophomore from Alabama has notched 10 games of at least 20 points and a 30-point outburst against Oklahoma City. This month, he’s shooting .473 from the floor, .464 from beyond the arc and .920 from the stripe.

Key: Bench Trial

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The Cavaliers have been getting excellent production off their bench over the past few games.

Larry Nance Jr. has led the charge – putting together arguably his best individual stretch of the season, doubling-up in four of his last five games, including a 17-point, 11-rebound effort in Tuesday’s loss to the Pelicans. Over that five-game stretch, Nance is averaging 15.2 points and 9.8 boards per and shooting .589 from the floor in the process.

Kevin Porter Jr. missed the previous nine games with a knee injury before making his return on Monday night in Detroit. He was impressive in the victory, finishing with nine points and three steals, but was even better in his second game back – tallying 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, including 5-of-8 from long-range.

Alfonzo McKinnie had a solid night on Tuesday as well – chipping in with seven points and five boards one game after leading Cleveland’s reserves with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting against Detroit.

Toronto has plenty of depth, including Norman Powell in the backcourt and veteran big man Serge Ibaka patrolling the paint.

Ibaka has doubled-up in each of his last two outings, including a 24-point, 10-rebound effort in Toronto’s recent win over the Hawks. Ibaka had a similar effort in the Raptors’ recent win over Cleveland – going off for 20 points and 10 boards in the December 31 victory.

Powell didn’t play in that contest, but was outstanding against Cleveland in the opener – netting 26 points on 11-for-15 shooting, adding six boards, five assists and a game-high four steals.


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