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Keys to the Game presented by: Key Bank

Five Keys: Cavaliers at Wizards

Key Bank
Will Newton/NBAE via Getty Images
by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

Key: Capital Gains

Friday night’s matchup features a pair of teams who are currently in flux – with both squads still working with moving pieces from Thursday’s Trade Deadline while trying to get healthy and get in the win column before the All-Star Break.

On Thursday, the Wine & Gold dealt Alec Burks along with the players they received in the Rodney Hood deal earlier in the week in exchange for Marquese Chriss, Brandon Knight and a pair of picks.

The Wizards, after receiving news that John Wall will miss an entire year rehabbing an Achilles injury, made a pair of moves – acquiring Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker from Chicago in exchange for Otto Porter Jr. and Wesley Johnson from New Orleans for a future second rounder.

The Cavaliers have dropped two straight after dropping the Wizards at The Q on January 29 – building a 25-point lead before holding off a furious Washington rally.

On Tuesday night, the Celtics dropped Cleveland for the third time this season – using a late third quarter push and holding the Cavs off the rest of the way.

The Wizards are coming off a lopsided loss to the Bucks – surrendering 148 points, the most they’ve given up in a non-overtime game since 1990.

The Wine & Gold have had a difficult season; winning three of four against their former postseason nemeses would be a nice silver lining.

Key: Trade War

Friday’s matchup will feature many moving parts. The Cavaliers will have recently-acquired big man Marquese Chriss available, but it’s unsure how long of a run he’ll get in his debut.

Coach Drew stated that Brandon Knight will not play on Friday night and that Kevin Love, who hasn’t suited up since October 24, is a game-time decision.

After signing an offseason extension, the five-time All-Star was off to an excellent start, doubling-up in three of his four outings, averaging 19.0 points and 13.5 boards per. If Love is able to go, he’ll be playing in a gym where he’s had good success – notching seven career double-doubles here in D.C., including a 39-point, 12-rebound outburst in an overtime thriller here two seasons ago.

Chriss has played sparingly with the Rockets this season, stacking up just over 100 minutes of total action, but he’s put up solid numbers over his first two seasons and will be looking forward to more opportunity with Cleveland.

It’s unclear whether Bobby Portis or Jabari Parker will be in action for the Wizards tonight, but they’re players the Wine & Gold are familiar with.

Portis has averaged 12.0 points and 4.0 boards in two meetings against Cleveland; Parker has averages of 10.3 and 3.0 in three meetings with the Cavs.

Key: Changing of the Guard

The Young Bull won’t have to deal with John Wall on Friday night in the nation’s capital, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be an easy night at the office.

With Wall gone for at least the rest of this season, third-year guard Tomas Satoransky took over the starting point guard spot in late December and hasn’t let go – averaging 11.5 points, 5.2 boards and 6.6 assists per in those 19 starts, shooting just under 49 percent from long-distance over that span.

Over that stretch, the 32nd pick of the 2012 Draft has doubled-up three times and gone for 20-plus on three other occasions.

But while he’s been successful against other opponents this year, the Wine & Gold have held him in check – averaging just 6.7 ppg in three head-to-head matchups, failing to reach double-figures in all three.

Sexton has had no problem tallying double-figures – the only rookie who’s been better is the Mavs’ Luka Doncic – it’s his shot-selection and decision-making that he’ll need to sharpen up as a sophomore.

Sexton was outstanding on Tuesday night against Boston, netting 27 points through the first three quarters before taking the collar in the fourth.

With that big effort, the former Alabama standout has now tallied double-figures in 46 games this season – topping the 20-point plateau in nine of those contests – while still leading all first-year players in free throw shooting, going .852 from the stripe.

Key: Sophomore Showdown

Friday night won’t feature a matchup between big-name big men, but it will feature two of the Conference’s interesting young centers in Thomas Bryant and Ante Zizic – both of whom got off to slow starts this season but have established themselves as the year’s gone on.

The Wizards dealt Marcin Gortat in the offseason, inking Dwight Howard as a stop-gap. But Bryant, who was waived by the Lakers in June, has taken hold of the center spot in D.C. and doesn’t look to be giving it up anytime soon.

Since taking over the starting spot in late November, the 21-year-old from Indiana has notched double-figure points on 20 occasions and double-digit boards in eight more games.

Bryant went for 31 and 13 in a win over Phoenix earlier this season and finished with 26 points and 14 boards in his last outing - a loss to the Bucks.

Ante Zizic has tallied double-figure scoring in six of his nine games since being named the starter and had grabbed double-digit boards in three of his last four outings.

Big Z is also having an outstanding season from the stripe – shooting .806 over his last 12 games.

Key: The Son Also Rises

With so much roster movement by both squads over the last few days, it’ll be interesting to see how each coach handles his bench on Friday night.

The Cavaliers have lost their two top wings in Alec Burks and Rodney Hood over the past week, but Larry Drew is resisting the temptation to move Jordan Clarkson into the starting lineup.

Clarkson has been one of the Association’s most effective bench scorers this season – having led his squad in scoring on 24 occasions this year, averaging a team-best 16.6 ppg despite not having started a game this season.

The fifth-year man from Mizzou had been hot – averaging 21.7 points on 60 percent shooting over his previous three games before Boston limited him to just seven points on 2-for-13 shooting in Wednesday’s loss.

One Cavalier reserve who’s had no trouble over his last few games is Larry Nance Jr., who’s returned to the lineup with a vengeance – averaging 11.7 points and 11.7 boards on 68 percent shooting from the floor over in five games and doubling-up in three of them.

After the Wine & Gold’s recent win over the Wizards, there’s no need to remind them of how dangerous Washington’s bench can be – especially former Cavalier, Jordan McRae, who scored all 15 of his points in the fourth quarter of that contest and nearly willed Washington to the win.


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