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The Wine & Gold take their show on the road for the longest trip of the season so far – a three-gamer beginning with a Friday night matchup against the Wizards in Washington. On Sunday evening, it’s Cleveland’s first trip to Madison Square Garden this year followed by a Tuesday night meeting against Joel Embiid and the Sixers in Philly.
On Tuesday night, John Beilein’s young Cavaliers nearly rallied past Boston at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, cutting the Celtics’ 12-point fourth-quarter lead to just three in the closing moments. But Gordon Hayward capped his monster performance with an offensive rebound and putback to seal the deal and send Cleveland to its third straight defeat.
Like the Cavs, Washington comes into tonight’s contest at 2-5, having dropped three of their last four, including a Wednesday night loss to the Pacers in Indy. The Wizards have allowed at least 121 points in each of those losses, including 159 points to the Rockets in an epic shootout last week at Capital One Arena.
Both teams need an early-season win, but history’s on the Wine & Gold’s side – with the Cavs having won 10 of the last 14 meetings in D.C., including a 17-9 overall mark since the 2012-13 season.
It doesn’t take an NBA scout to know that game-planning against the Wizards starts with figuring out how to slow down Bradley Beal.
Beal accounts for nearly one-quarter of the Wizards’ offensive production – averaging a career-high 27.0 points per through the first seven games. (No other Wizards player is averaging more than 14.0 ppg.)
And as good as Beal’s been all season, he’s been even hotter over the last week – topping the 30-point mark in three of his last four outings, including his 46-point outburst in the thrilling battle against James Harden (who finished with 59), going 7-for-12 from long-range in the 159-158 loss.
In 21 meetings against Cleveland, Beal’s averaging 20.4 points per, topping the 30-point plateau twice and going off for 41 in a 2017 loss in Cleveland.
Collin Sexton isn’t quite the offensive scoring machine that Beal’s become – yet.
But he’ll give Beal plenty to deal with defensively – coming into tonight’s game having notched double-figures in 30 straight games dating back to last season, including Tuesday night’s team-high 21-point effort against Boston.
That effort was the 29th time that Sexton has scored at least 20 points in just his 89th game as a pro. And three of those games came last year in four games against the Wizards, averaging 23.0 points as Cleveland split the season series.
With Bradley Beal doing most of the heavy lifting for Washington, the Wizards rely on their depth to fill in the rest of the scoring.
Former Cavaliers, Isaiah Thomas and C.J. Miles and figure prominently off Scott Brooks’ bench, with Thomas averaging 13.6 ppg and Miles at 13.5. Thomas also leads the team in assists.
Davis Bertans has two 20-point outings off the bench this year while Moritz Wagner – who played under Coach John Beilein at Michigan – has tallied double-figures in five of his seven outings off the bench this year. Ish Smith has scored in double-figures off the bench in four straight meetings against the Wine & Gold.
The Cavaliers have also been getting solid contributions from their second unit.
Larry Nance Jr. had his second 15-point outing off the bench this year in Tuesday’s loss to Boston – drilling all three three-pointers he attempted, going 5-of-6 from the floor overall. On the season, Nance is averaging 10.4 ppg – shooting 48 percent from the floor, 38 percent from long-range.
After struggling in his first outing of the season, Jordan Clarkson has tallied double-figure scoring in each of his next six games, averaging an even 15.0ppg on the season.
Clarkson feasted on the Wizards last season – going off for 28 points on 6-of-8 shooting from deep in a win last January and adding 24 more off the bench in a road loss in February.