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Five Keys: Cavaliers at Nets

Key: New York State of Mind

After running off two straight wins the previous weekend, the Cavaliers have been searching for their next victory ever since.

On Monday night, they roll into Brooklyn, hoping to avenge an early-season loss at The Q and snap their current four-game skein.

On Saturday night, the Wine & Gold dropped their second game this season to the league’s top team through the first quarter of the season, with the Raptors opening up a double-digit lead midway through the second quarter and holding off a late Cavs rally. Cleveland’s sputtering offense shot just 39 percent from the floor for the third straight game as the Raptors won their 20th game of the season.

Since losing their top scorer, Caris LeVert, to a foot injury, the Nets have gone 2-8 and come into tonight’s contest against Cleveland having dropped six straight, including a two-touchdown loss in Washington on Saturday night.

One of Brooklyn’s eight wins this year came back on October 24 at The Q – with all five Nets starters reaching double-figures while holding Cleveland to just 38 percent shooting.

The revenge match on Monday night in New York features two shorthanded squads in desperate need of a win.

Key: Keeping Guard

Despite their recent struggles, some Nets are actually off to solid starts to the season, including guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who’s improved every year in the league and comes into tonight’s contest averaging 15.6 ppg, good for second on the squad.

His backcourt mate, former Buckeye D’Angelo Russell is the team’s top scorer at 17.5 ppg, giving Brooklyn a solid one-two punch in the backcourt.

In the first meeting between these two teams back in late October, Russell led all scorers with 18 points, going 5-for-14 from the floor and handing out a game-high eight assists.

On Saturday night, George Hill returned to the lineup after missing the previous 11 games with a shoulder injury. He was solid in limited minutes – finishing with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes of work.

After averaging 26.0 points per in Cleveland’s back-to-back wins two weekends ago, Collin Sexton has come back down to earth a bit and the Young Bull struggled once again on Saturday night, finishing with just 11 points one night after a tough outing against Kyrie Irving in Boston.

Even with his recent rut, the eighth overall pick this past June is still averaging 17.8 ppg in his 12 games as a starter.

Key: Follow the Leader

Collin Sexton (and Jordan Clarkson) have garnered most of the ooohhh’s and ahhhh’s this season, but the Wine & Gold’s most solid performer this year has been Tristan Thompson, who posted another monster performance on Saturday night at The Q – going off for his 10th double-double in the last 13 games – finishing with 18 points and a game-high 19 boards, going 6-for-15 from the floor, adding three assists and a steal.

Cleveland’s blue collar big man has now grabbed at least 15 boards in six games this year and is averaging 13.8 points and 13.2 boards over his last 13 games dating back to November 5.

He’ll lock horns with another Texas alum on Monday night in sophomore big man Jarrett Allen.

The lithe center has improved his numbers across the board in his second season and comes into the game as Brooklyn’s fourth-leading scorer and its top rebounder at 8.6 rpg.

Before putting up a clunker on Saturday night, the 22nd pick of the 2017 Draft was on a roll – averaging 14.6 points and 9.9 boards over an eight-game stretch, with six double-doubles in the mix.

Key: Benchmarks

Jordan Clarkson has been the Wine & Gold’s main bench scorer since his arrival in a Deadline deal last February, and he’s gotten some consistent help over the last two games from the newest Cavalier, Alec Burks.

The eighth-year swingman from Colorado has tallied double-figures in each of his first two games with Cleveland, including a 13-point, six-rebound effort in Saturday night’s loss at The Q.

Clarkson did his thing on Saturday, tying Tristan for the team-lead with 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting in 29 minutes off the bench.

It was the 20th time (in 22 games) that Clarkson has reached double-figures, and he’s now averaging a team-best and career-high 16.0 ppg this year – good for fifth-best among all NBA reserves.

The Nets have been so beset by injuries of late that it’s been hard to find any consistency off the bench.

With Allen Crabbe moving into the starting lineup, Brooklyn’s main weapons off the bench on Monday night include Shabazz Napier, DeMarre Carroll and Ed Davis, who led all Nets reserves with 10 points in their October win over Cleveland at The Q.

Key: Under the Hood

If the Cavaliers are looking to jumpstart their offense, they’ll need Rodney Hood to continue playing aggressively.

When he’s in attack mode, he’s one of the Wine & Gold’s best scoring options – and he’s been pretty solid of late, averaging 14.8 points per over his last six games, shooting 47 percent from the floor and 46 percent from beyond the arc over that stretch.

Hood finished with 13 points in Cleveland’s recent loss to Toronto and has notched double-figures in 18 of 22 outings so far this season. Hood finished with just 10 points in the earlier meeting against Brooklyn this season but went for 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting to go with three boards and three assists the last time the Cavs traveled to the Barclays Center.

The Nets will likely counter with Allen Crabbe, who’s coming off a 14-point performance against the Wizards, just his fourth double-figure scoring game since being inserted into the starting lineup 10 games ago.

Crabbe can still be dangerous from the perimeter, however, as he showed two weeks ago in Dallas – going off for 27 points on 7-for-14 shooting from beyond the arc.

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