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Keys to the Game: Cavaliers at Spurs

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank


Stars at Night, Big and Bright

The Wine & Gold’s West Coast trip – off a 3-1 start – wraps up this weekend, with a back-to-back beginning with a visit to San Antonio to face the Spurs on Friday night followed by a battle with the Thunder in OKC tomorrow.

After going 3-2 on their first West Coast trip of the season back in late October, the Cavaliers are looking to improve on that after having surpassed last year’s win total earlier this week. On Friday, Cleveland takes on a reeling Spurs squad that’s lost eight of their last nine.

After snapping prolonged skids in Miami and Portland this year, the Cavs reversed course in Utah – where they hadn’t won since 2014 – in a big way, earning their biggest win ever in Salt Lake City.

The Cavs led by just six at the break, but blew things open in the third quarter – with Lamar Stevens scoring Cleveland’s first 13 points of the period, part of a 21-0 run that sealed the deal over the slumping Jazz.

On the night, Stevens notched a career-best 23 points, going 10-for-15 from the floor, adding seven boards and a pair of steals in his fifth straight start.

Darius Garland registered the first triple-double of his career, finishing with 11 points, a career-best 15 assists and 10 boards, while Lauri Markkanen followed up with 20 points, going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.

Kevin Love notched 16 points in 20 minutes of work off the bench and Evan Mobley tallied his eighth double-double of the season – finishing with 15 points, 10 boards, seven assists and a block.

The Spurs have dropped four straight, including a 128-124 loss to the Rockets on Wednesday night after returning home from a seven-game road trip. Friday’s matchup with Cleveland is the second of six straight at the AT&T Center.

There was a major bright spot in San Antonio’s loss, with guard Dejounte Murray posting a 32-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound triple-double – adding three steals and finishing without a single turnover. The 5th-year man from Washington has now topped the 20-point plateau in six of his last eight games.

The Cavs close out their trip on Saturday night against the Thunder in OKC before returning home to face the Nets in an MLK Day matchup at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Cleveland gets right back on the road afterward – traveling to Chicago for a Wednesday night showdown with the Conference-leading Bulls.


History

The Cavaliers trail the all-time regular season series against the Spurs, 34-65, but they’ve won three of the last four and each of the last two in San Antonio – with two of the four wins coming in overtime.

In Cleveland’s last visit to the AT&T Center, Darius Garland exploded for a career-high 37 points, going 14-for-22 from the floor, including 5-of-10 from deep as the Wine & Gold earned their biggest victory ever in San Antonio – running away with the 125-101 win.

The all-time single-game rebounding leader for the Spurs is shared by Dennis Rodman – who grabbed 21 in 1995 – and Keldon Johnson, who did the same at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse last year. Cleveland’s single-game leader is none other than Bill Laimbeer, who grabbed 22 rebounds to go with 19 points in a Cavs blowout win during his rookie season.


Connections

The current Cavs and Spurs don’t have a ton of connections. Spurs forward Thaddeus Young and Lauri Markkanen were teammates for a couple seasons with the Bulls, while Collin Sexton and Spurs rookie Joshua Primo were probably both unhappy with the results of the National Championship on Monday night, as they are Alabama products.

Spurs forward Keita Bates-Diop, who’s started each of the last four games for San Antonio, was the Big Ten’s Player of the Year in 2018 – averaging 19.8 points and 8.7 boards for Ohio State.

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