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Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank

Five Keys: Cavaliers vs. Wizards

David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

Key: Let's Play Two

On Saturday night, the Wine & Gold wrap up their brief three-game homestand – and the second-half of their home back-to-back – when they welcome Bradley Beal and the streaking Wizards to The Q.

On Friday night, the Cavaliers allowed the Kings a hot start – canning 10 of their first 12 shot attempts – and saw them pull away for the lopsided win after intermission.

The news wasn’t all bad on Friday, however, as news broke that the Cavaliers will be bringing back one of their favorite sons, Matthew Dellavedova, as part of a three-time trade that also nets Cleveland veteran big man John Henson as well as a trio of draft picks in exchange for George Hill and Sam Dekker.

Despite still being three games under .500, the Wizards have won three straight and five of their last seven heading into tonight’s contest, including road wins over New York and Atlanta earlier this week.

Washington already has one victory in its pocket against Cleveland this year – a lopsided victory back on November 14 at Capital One Arena.

The rivalry isn’t what it once was, but the Cavaliers would still love to burst the Wizards' bubble when they roll in on Saturday evening.

Key: Beal, the Real Deal

If you’re looking for the main reason for Washington’s December resurgence, he wears uniform No. 3.

After being taken with the third overall pick back in 2012, Bradley Beal has been the model of consistency with the Wizards and one of the Association’s more underappreciated stars.

Beal has been outstanding all season long for Scott Brooks’ squad, averaging a team-best 22.4 ppg – posting 15 outings of at least 20 points and three games of 30 or more, including a 36-point outburst in Washington’s most recent win over the Hawks, going 12-of-22 from the floor and 10-of-13 from the line to go with nine assists and six boards.

In the first meeting between the Cavs and Wizards this season, Beal led Washington with 20 points on 7-for-16 shooting.

Normally, the Cavaliers would counter with Rodney Hood – and they still might – but the fifth-year swingman from Duke was limited to just 15 minutes of action on Friday night after suffering a right foot injury.

Coach Drew will again be shorthanded – this time due to the trade – and could move Alec Burks or Jordan Clarkson into a starting role if Hood is unable to go.

Key: Standing Guard

John Wall missed the Wizards’ Wednesday night meeting against Atlanta due to personal reasons and is expected to meet the team in Cleveland. Whether he plays or not is something we’ll know later tonight.

If he’s able to suit up, that will certainly continue the early-season education of rookie Collin Sexton, who’s learning firsthand that the current NBA is a point guard’s league.

On Friday night, Sexton got an up-close-and-personal look at De’Aaron Fox – who led both squads with 30 points and 12 assists – two nights after watching Steph Curry put on a blistering shooting display.

Wall was on a roll before missing the Atlanta victory – notching 30 points in three of his previous seven games and handing out at least 11 assists in three more. Despite beating Cleveland by 24 points, Wall was quiet in the earlier meeting – finishing with just eight points on 3-for-10 shooting.

Sexton has faced the heavyweights, but he hasn’t backed down. In Friday’s faceoff with Fox, the Young Bull tallied 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting – his seventh 20-point outing so far this season.

In now 15 starts with the Cavs, Sexton is averaging 18.2 points on 48 percent shooting from long-range to go with 3.6 boards and 2.7 assists per.

Key: Bench Boost

Even with so many players on the shelf, the Cavaliers bench has been outstanding all season long. And with the recent addition of Alec Burks and the pending arrival of Matthew Dellavedova, that unit is preparing for an upgrade.

In Friday night’s loss, Cleveland’s reserves combined for 58 points – their sixth 50+ point outing of the season – and are now averaging 42.3 points, good for seventh in the NBA.

Jordan Clarkson has been making the headlines off the bench – and he led the Cavs in scoring again on Friday night, going 11-for-19 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Clarkson has now tallied double-figures in 23 of his 25 outings this season and his career-high 16.6 ppg average ranks him third among all NBA reserves.

But the fifth-year man from Mizzou might’ve been outdone on Friday night by the newest Cavalier – Alec Burks – who posted an historic performance off the bench – netting 22 points, seven boards and career-high nine assists to become the first Cavalier in franchise history to post those all-around numbers in a reserve role.

Key: Center of Attention

Aside from his coast-to-coast dunk, the highlights were few and far between for Tristan Thompson on Friday night. But if any Cavalier deserves an early-season mulligan, it’s the blue collar big.

In the loss to Sacramento, Thompson tallied just four points, six boards and a pair of assists – snapping his run of four straight double-doubles.

Before struggling against the Kings, the eighth-year pro from Texas had averaged an even 16.0 points and 16.0 rebounds per over that four-game stretch and is still averaging 13.6 points and 13.1 boards in the 16 contests dating back to November 5.

Thompson’s been so-so over his career against the Wizards, but has netted six double-doubles over the years.

After dealing Marcin Gortat in the offseason, the Wizards were seeking an answer at the center spot through the first part of the year. But it seems like they’ve found their man in sophomore Thomas Bryant – who was inserted into the starting lineup back on November 20 and has paid off in positive production.

Over that nine-game stretch, the Wizards have gone 6-3, with Bryant slowly finding his rhythm – netting double-figures in two of his last four games, including a 16-point, nine-rebound effort in Washington’s recent win over the Hawks.


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