Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank

Five Keys: Cavaliers at Bucks

David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Key: Road Warriors Roll On

At home or on the road, the results have been very similar for the Wine and Gold, winners of five straight and looking for No. 6 when they roll into Milwaukee to take on Giannis Antetokuonmpo and the Bucks on Tuesday night.

The Wine and Gold come in as the hottest squad in the East – having won 18 of their last 19 games dating back to November 11 – including Sunday evening’s impressive win over the Wizards, with the Cavaliers riding LeBron James’ third straight triple-double and clamping down on the Wizards late to seal their eighth road win in nine tries.

The injury-plagued Bucks followed a nice three-game run with a three-game losing skein, including a tough four-point loss on Saturday night in Houston.

The Cavs have won five straight and 10 of the last 12 over the Bucks, including a pair of victories already this season – a 19-point win here in Milwaukee on October 7 and a tight win over Jason Kidd’s squad at The Q on November 7.

Key: Bucking the Trend

If there was any talk of LeBron James “passing the torch” to the next generation of NBA stars, the four-time MVP has pretty much debunked that by carrying the torch all season long – easily having one of the best seasons of his career at age 32.

On Monday afternoon, James won his second Eastern Conference Player of the Week award in three weeks (and 59th of his career) – just hours after dropping his third straight triple-double (and fourth in five games) on the Wizards in Sunday’s win in D.C.

In his sixth triple-double of the young season, LeBron finished with 20 points, 12 boards and 15 assists – simultaneously passing Hakeem Olajuwon for 9th on the NBA’s list of made field goals.

Currently, the King is 3rd in the league in scoring (27.8 ppg), 2nd in assists (9.3 apg), tied for 2nd in double-doubles (22) and triple-doubles (6), 6th in field goal percentage (a career-best .570) and 20th in rebounding (8.5 rpg).

Over the course of his illustrious career, LeBron has posted 14 30-point games against Milwaukee, three games of 40+ and two 50-point outbursts.

Key: Super Freaky

When LeBron finally does pass the torch – if he ever does – the Greek Freak is more than ready to accept it. Giannis Antetokuonmpo’s team isn’t having the same success as James’, but the Freak is right there in MVP discussions with Cleveland’s ageless superstar.

And like James, the fifth-year forward/guard/center is among the league leaders in almost every category – ranking 2nd in scoring (29.8 ppg), 10th in rebounds, 12th in field goal percentage, 12th in steals and 9th in blocks.

At just 23 years old, Antetokuonmpo is already posting numbers on par with league legends – on pace this season to join David Robinson as the only players in NBA history to average at least 29.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game for a season.

After finishing with just nine points on 4-for-13 shooting in the final matchup with Cleveland last year, the Freak has been on a mission through two games in 2017-18 – averaging 37.0 points on 72 percent shooting to go with 8.5 boards, 5.5 assists and 2.0 blocks through the first two contests this year.

Key: Welcome Back, Wade

After missing two of Cleveland’s last four games with a sore knee, Dwyane Wade is likely to return on Tuesday night in Milwaukee.

The 15-year veteran, who played his college ball here at the Bradley Center while starring for Marquette, was still in the starting lineup when these two squads faced off the first time this year, but Wade has been brilliant in a reserve role since then. That cranky knee has slowed Wade down over the past couple weeks, following his streak of seven straight games in double-figures with a stretch where he’s struggled from the floor – shooting just 41 percent from the floor over his last five.

But as Wade regains his rhythm, the Cavaliers bench has continued to shine – posting their 21st game this season of a combined 40 points in Sunday night’s win over Washington.

Three reserves (Wade, Kyle Korver and Jeff Green) are all averaging double-figures scoring this season – with Korver emerging as one of the deadliest fourth-quarter scorers in the league this season.

Soon, the Cavaliers bench will get even stronger, with Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert working their way back to health and Tristan Thompson trying to find his groove after missing 19 games with a strained calf injury.

Key: Pointed Argument

The Wine and Gold have already dropped the Bucks twice this season, but they’ve yet to face off against Milwaukee with guard Eric Bledsoe in the lineup. In the November 7 meeting at The Q, Bledsoe was still inactive, but he’ll be ready to roll on Tuesday night at the Bradley Center.

The 8th-year veteran from Kentucky’s numbers have been down this season and he’s third on the Bucks in assists, but he’s always a threat go off – dropping 30 points on the Suns last month.

Of course, if Bledsoe is ineffective, the Bucks can pull the reigning Rookie of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon, off the bench. The former Virginia standout got the start in the first two meetings with Cleveland this season – averaging 19.0 points on 52 percent shooting, including 53 percent from beyond the arc.

As far as shooting percentages from the floor and long-distance, nobody on the Cavs this side of LeBron James is doing it better than Jose Calderon – who comes into tonight’s contest shooting .514 from the floor and a team-best 50 percent from long-distance, going 20-for-40 on the campaign.

But the number that matters most to the 13-year veteran is his record as a starter for the Wine and Gold – running his mark to 14-2 with Sunday’s win over the Wizards.

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