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Three Keys: Cavaliers at Wizards

Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank


Key: Spoiler Alert

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After closing out the home portion of their 2020-21 schedule with a bang, the Wine & Gold hit the road one final time this year – tipping off a two-game trip on Friday night in D.C.

The Cavaliers snapped a season-long 11-game losing skid on Wednesday night in the home finale – taking the season series over Boston with the convincing win, fending off the Celtics early fourth quarter rally and extending the C’s skein to four straight. Kevin Love had his best game of the season and Cleveland won for the first time since late April.

The Wizards stumbled without Bradley Beal on Wednesday night as they try to outlast the Bulls and reach next week’s Play-In Tournament, blowing a double-digit fourth quarter lead to the Hawks. Washington, which holds a two-game lead over Chicago with two home games to go, is 5-5 after rattling off eight straight wins to get back into postseason contention.

The Cavs have faced Washington twice since late April and have dropped both, including a one-sided decision at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, but the two squads have split the last eight overall.


Key: Triple Trouble

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The superlatives have all been used, but Russell Westbrook’s prolific recent run has put his squad on the doorstep of the postseason, with the Cavaliers and Hornets still standing in his way this weekend.

The 13th-year man from UCLA has been a triple-double machine all year and recently claimed the crown – passing Oscar Robertson for the all-time lead with his 182nd career trifecta on Monday night against Atlanta. This season, Westbrook has a league-high 36 triple-doubles to go with 57 double-doubles – including 34 straight – and, in a win over Indy earlier this month, grabbed 21 boards to go with 24 assists.

Westbrook had scored at least 20 points in 13 straight games against Cleveland, but hasn’t done so in either matchup this year – averaging 14.5 points per, despite doubling-up in the first meeting and posting yet another triple-double with 15 points, 12 boards and 11 assists in the second.

The nine-time All-Star will spend very little, if any, time checking his former roommate at UCLA, Kevin Love, who’s coming off easily his best game of the season on Wednesday.

In the win over Boston, the five-time All-Star went for 30 points and 14 boards – both season-highs – going 10-of-16 from the floor, including 6-of-9 from long-range, adding three assists and a pair of steals.

Love’s had a pair of forgettable meetings against Washington this season, finishing with 12 points and five boards in the first game and 10 boards and zero points in a game in which he didn’t attempt a field goal.


Key: Reserve Judgement

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With Bradley Beal sidelined and Russell Westbrook unable to do all the heavy lifting, the Wizards bench will have to help them cross the finish line this weekend.

Davis Bertans hasn’t been as consistent as he was a year ago, but he’s still one of the league’s top shooting reserves, drilling nine bombs in the recent two-game set against Atlanta. The 42nd overall pick back in 2011 comes into tonight’s contest having scored double-figures in each of his last six.

The Wizards have also gotten some much needed relief from Raul Neto, who’s notched double-figures in three of his last four, including a 25-point outburst off the bench in a recent win over Toronto, averaging 13.3ppg over that stretch.

The Cavaliers bench had been struggling of late before bouncing back of late.

In Wednesday’s win, Damyean Dotson chipped in with nine points on 4-of-6 shooting and Brodric Thomas finished with a career-high 10 boards. In Monday night’s matchup against Dallas, three reserves netted double-figure scoring – Dotson, Thomas and Mfiondu Kabengele.

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