KeyBank Keys to the Game: Cavs at Pistons


After running off four straight at home last week, the Wine & Gold stumbled to start their three-game mini-trip in Milwaukee on Friday night, but hope to get back in the win column when they travel to Motown on Sunday. 

The Cavs were cruising in the opening stanza on Friday night against the Bucks, taking an 11-point edge into intermission before collapsing in a disastrous third quarter – getting outscored, 35-10, with Milwaukee holding off Cleveland in the fourth for its second home win this year against the Wine & Gold. Making matters worse, Jarrett Allen went down with a hip injury and his status is unclear for Sunday. 

The Pistons have had even more trouble on the injury front and were without the services of Saddiq Bey, Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey and Isaiah Stewart as they dropped their six-game road trip finale on Friday. Despite the tight loss in Phoenix, Detroit won the previous two on the trip – dropping Denver and Utah in successive nights last week. 

Cleveland tipped off its own West Coast trip earlier this year with a stopover in Detroit – blasting the Pistons by 24 points back on November 4. The Cavs blew that one open in the second quarter behind an outburst by Jarrett Allen, outscoring them, 33-18, and coasting to the win after half for their second straight in the series.


Detroit hasn’t had a ton of consistency this year, but one steady presence has been the newest Piston, Bojan Bogdanovic, who’s having the best season of his career after being dealt from Utah over the summer. 

The 9th-year small forward from Bosnia comes into tonight’s contest averaging a team-best 20.6ppg – having notched double-figure scoring in every game this year except one: the Nov. 4 loss to Cleveland, which held him to just six points on 2-of-9 shooting. 

But Bogdanovic has posted six games of at least 20 points over the course of his career against Cleveland, including a 30-point night as a member of the Pacers back in the 2018 postseason. 

The Cavaliers haven’t had that kind of consistency at the 3 this season, but they’ve still done well with the rotation of Caris LeVert, Lamar Stevens, Isaac Okoro and Dean Wade. 

With Stevens out with an illness on Friday, Dean Wade was back in the starting lineup against Milwaukee. 

Stevens improved his career mark as a starter to 13-6 when he was inserted back into the opening lineup just before the home stand and has netted double-figures in four of his six starts this year. Wade didn’t shoot the ball particularly well on Friday night, but did manage to lead both teams with a career-high-tying 12 rebounds in the loss.


Even in a loss, the Cavs starting backcourt was solid on Friday night – combining for 49 points. And both Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell will be making their season debuts against Detroit on Sunday. 

Both All-Star guards were in street clothes the last time these squads faced off, with Cedi Osman and Isaac Okoro starting in their place in the one-sided win. Both should be back in action on Sunday. 

On Friday night, Mitchell led Cleveland with 29 points, going 11-for-24 from the floor, including 5-of-11 from long-range, adding three boards and a steal. Garland followed up with 20 points and led the Cavs in assists with three. 

Mitchell has gone off for 30-plus in each of his last two meetings against Detroit; Garland has notched 20-plus in five of his last six games head-to-head matchups. 

Jaden Ivey was out with a knee ailment on Friday night, but the electric rookie from Purdue could return to the lineup on Sunday. Ivey has notched double-figure scoring in every game but two this year, including an 18-point effort against the Cavs and three double-doubles in the mix.