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Three Keys: Cavaliers at Rockets

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank


Key: Houston, We Have a Problem

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Both the Rockets and Cavaliers lugged long losing streaks into the final week of February. Since then, one team has turned it around. The other has not.

Before dropping Houston last Wednesday night, the Wine & Gold snapped their 10-game skein the night before against Atlanta – then proceeded to make it three straight on Saturday, jumping on the Sixers before halftime, holding them off in the fourth quarter and simply outplaying them in overtime to notch their third three-game run of the season.

The Rockets have somehow fallen farther then they were when Cleveland beat them in a one-sided affair last week – suffering a blowout of epic proportions, with Memphis blowing them out by 49 points to extend the losing streak to 11 games. In the loss, Houston – the league’s worst three-point shooting – went 4-for-45 from beyond the arc.

Houston has historically been one of the toughest places for the Cavaliers to get a win – having done so just three times in the 21st century, the last time in 2016. But things have changed dramatically for both squads and the surging Wine & Gold should like their chances on Monday night.


Key: Guard Duty

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If the Rockets are going to get off the schneid, they’re going to have to get better production out of their starting backcourt of John Wall and Eric Gordon.

Wall, a five-time All-Star, and Gordon, once the league’s top Sixth Man, have struggled from the floor over the course of Houston’s prolonged misery – including a combined 19 points on 5-for-26 shooting in the massive drubbing by Memphis.

Wall is still the Rockets main offensive weapon – having topped the 20-point mark in six of his last nine outings, including a team-best 20-point performance last week against Cleveland.

Before Wednesday, Wall hadn’t faced the Cavs since 2018, but he’s had some big nights against Cleveland – turning in 11 games of 20-or-more and three games of 30 points plus.

The Cavaliers have been getting outstanding production from their starting backcourt during the three-game run – including a combined 53 points from Collin Sexton and Darius Garland on Saturday night in Philly.

In that victory, Sexton topped the 20-point plateau for the eighth straight occasion – finishing with 28 points on 11-for-27 shooting, adding five boards, three assists and three steals.

Garland saved his best for last – struggling from the floor through the first quarters before taking over the game in overtime – scoring 11 of his 25 points in the extra-session, going 3-of-4 from the field and 5-of-6 from the stripe to seal the deal.


Key: Bench Bunch

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Even though the Grizzlies set a franchise record with 85 points off the bench in their lopsided Sunday win over the Rockets, Stephen Silas also got some good production off his bench – finishing with 49 of Houston’s 84 points.

Rookie Jae’Sean Tate continued his impressive freshman campaign after going undrafted out of Ohio State – finishing with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting against the Grizz. Tate didn’t shoot that well against the Cavs last week, but overall has tallied double figures in seven of his last 10 outings.

Former Cavalier David Nwaba has also been solid off Houston’s bench and is one of the few Rockets shooting the ball well during the Rockets’ losing streak – hitting on 49 percent of his field goals and notching double-figure scoring off the bench on six occasions over the 11-game drought.

The Cavs have gotten excellent production off the bench over the course of their three-game run.

Dylan Windler had canned nine straight triples before struggling on Saturday night in Philly, but Damyean Dotson picked up the scoring slack, finishing with 10 points (and a team-best +9) in 18 minutes of work.

Lamar Stevens – who had the game-winning dunk earlier in the week against Atlanta – didn’t score, but was outstanding on the defensive end in overtime after Isaac Okoro fouled out after netting a career-high 15 points and JaVale McGee had another solid effort on both ends, chipping in with six points and a team-best two blocks in the win.

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