Keys to the Game
Five Keys: Cavaliers vs. Kings
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
Key: Oh Yes, They Call it the Streak
The Cavaliers return home on Wednesday night looking to join franchise history and run their current NBA-best win streak to 13 games when they welcome Zach Randolph, De’Aaron Fox and the Kings to The Q.
The Cavs gave themselves a chance to tie their longest win streak in team history – accomplished twice during the 2009-10 season – when they won No. 12 on Monday night in Chicago. In that contest, the Cavaliers trailed in the first three minutes of the ballgame before hitting the afterburners and cruising to their seventh consecutive road win – which also ties a franchise mark.
The Kings got off to a terrible start this season, but have gone .500 over the last three weeks and face the Wine & Gold in their third stop on a four-game roadie.
The Cavs have knocked off both Western Conference squads that’ve come to The Q this season and are 34-6 against the West at home dating back to late January 2015.
Cleveland’s also won four of their last five meetings against the Kings, topping Sacramento by almost 10 points per over that stretch and topping the 120-point mark in three of those contests.
Key: King's Court
In the first professional game of what’s become a Hall of Fame career, LeBron James took on the high-octane Kings, who’d just won 59 games the previous season and were a perennial Playoff threat in the West.
A decade-and-a-half later, LeBron has reigned over the Eastern Conference for the balance of his career and the Kings have yet to rebound from the demise of that golden era – missing the postseason in each of the last 11 seasons and currently tied with the Mavericks with the lowest win total (7) in the West.
James is not only still going strong 15 seasons later; in many ways, he’s having one of his best campaigns to date – posting his highest scoring average (28.0 ppg) since 2009-10 and the highest shooting percentage (.584) of his illustrious career.
The four-time MVP finished with an efficient 23-point, seven-rebound, six-assist performance against the Bulls in Monday’s win. He went 9-of-16 from the field in that one and has now shot better than 50 percent from the floor in 11 straight contests and in 22 of 24 games this season.
In his last meeting with Sacramento at The Q, LeBron posted a triple-double – tallying 24 points, 13 boards, 11 assist and a pair of steals.
Key: Love Machine
The Cavaliers of the past three years were a team built around its Big Three. But this season – at least until Isaiah Thomas returns to the lineup – Cleveland has used the reliable recipe of a heavy dose of LeBron and Kevin Love, with decent contributions from the other starters and a sizeable effort from the bench.
Since Tristan Thompson’s injury, Love has exclusively played the starting 5, facing off against some reputed traditional big men and getting the better of them in most instances.
On Monday night, in the 600th game of his career, Love notched his team-best 14th double-double – finishing with 24 points and 13 boards, going 8-of-13 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from long-range in just 23 minutes of action.
The four-time All-Star’s been especially hot over his last four outings, averaging 26.8 points and 12.3 rebounds, shooting 56 percent from the floor, 52 percent from long-range and 88 percent from the line.
In 24 career meetings with the Kings, dating back to Love’s Western Conference days, he’s doubled-up in 17 of them, including both meetings last year – averaging 18.0 points and 16.5 boards.
Love will start out on Kosta Koufus – who went scoreless with 13 boards in his last start – but he’ll get a long look at 17-year vet Zach Randolph, who came off the bench for the first time all year, finishing with 22 points in Sacramento’s loss on Saturday night in Milwaukee.
Key: Look Into the Future
Along with Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta, the Kings franchise is one that’s building for the future.
Last season, they jettisoned DeMarcus Cousins and went into full rebuild. Buddy Hield, the key piece acquired in that deal with New Orleans, is the squad’s second-leading scorer (11.98ppg) off the bench for Sacramento.
Behind him at 10.8 ppg is prized rookie De’Aaron Fox, another building block in the Kings’ future. The former Kentucky standout has already had some big moments in his freshman campaign – canning a late game-winner over Philly after handing out 10 assists in just his second NBA game against Dallas. Fox is currently 9th among all rookies in scoring and 3rd in assists and he’ll make his first appearance in Cleveland on Wednesday night.
Fox was eight years old when the guys he’ll start off against tonight, Jose Calderon, got started in the NBA – and Calderon will try to use every bit of that experience to mitigate that youth advantage this evening.
It’s no secret that the well-traveled vet hasn’t put up huge numbers while filling in at the starting point guard spot over Cleveland’s streak, but one of those small numbers is his turnover mark – averaging a single miscue per game while running his starting record in November to 8-0.
Key: Bench Mob(s)
If there’s one area where the Kings actually have a seeming advantage over the Cavaliers, it’s their second unit – which is really saying something, considering how effective Cleveland’s bench has been all season.
But Sacramento’s second unit is the league’s best, and – at 49.8 ppg – by a pretty sizeable margin. The Kings’ bench has only been outscored in three games this season and their reserves also lead the NBA in assists, dishing out 11.0 per game.
Sacramento’s bench has actually set an NBA record twice this year – although it’s not one to be particularly proud of as a team: scoring the team’s first 29 points before a starter scored a single point, doing so twice already this season and eclipsing the previous mark of 23 set by Milwaukee in 2011.
The Wine & Gold’s second unit, ranked 5th in the NBA in scoring, will not face that problem. But Dwyane Wade is scoring like a starter on many nights – including Monday night’s 24-point performance, his seventh straight game of double-figure scoring.
Jeff Green followed up with a solid 14-point effort, going 6-for-10 from the floor and grabbing eight boards in 24 minutes of work off the bench.