Believe it or not, Monday’s game with the Kings marks half of the Cavaliers’ season – playing their 41st game of the season and third on a six-game junket on the West Coast.
The Cavs started the trip in style, ending their Blazers season sweep on Friday night in Portland. But they encountered another animal on Sunday night in San Francisco – facing off against an already dominant Warriors team on the night they welcomed Klay Thompson back from an absence of nearly three years.
JB Bickerstaff’s side proved to be a snap once again, keeping the Warriors at 40 percent on shots and just 17 points in the fourth quarter. But Cleveland struggled offensively, too, and the Warriors showed why they are the best defensive team in the league – forcing 18 turnovers from Wine & Gold and dominating them on the offensive glass.
Lamar Stevens paced Cleveland with a career-high 17 points, dropping 8 of 11 from the floor, adding four boards and a pair of interceptions.
Rajon Rondo was very good again – totaling double-digit numbers in his second straight outing after failing to do so in his previous 18 appearances this season with the Lakers – finishing with 15 points on 6 of 10 shots, including including the three triples he attempted in the fourth quarter.
But on Sunday night, the 16-year-old vet didn’t get much help from the rest of the bench, who combined to come out just 3 of 17 from the field.
The Kings announced a six-game home game on Monday night, and they could use it – having lost five of their previous six games, including a 103-88 loss on Sunday night. Like the Cavaliers, the Kings struggled on offense in the loss, shooting just 39% from the ground, including 22% from beyond the arc.
After tonight’s game, the Wine & Golds head east to round off their West Coast roadie – traveling to face the Jazz on Wednesday before concluding with a back-to-back, facing the Spurs on Friday night and the Thunder at OKC Saturday.
The Cavs used a huge first half – exploding for 45 points in the second quarter and 81 in the stanza – in their Dec. 11 win over Sacramento, ending the Kings’ five-game streak in the series.
The Kings hold a slight lead in the all-time series, 62-60, but this one-on-one story goes back to when they were the Cincinnati Royals, then the Kansas City Kings-Omaha, then the Kansas City Kings before moving to Sacramento.
The all-time one-game rebound leader for the Kings is Sam Lacey – who caught 24 boards in a Royals’ win at Cincinnati in 1972 (and who played his last NBA season with the Wine & Gold in 1982-83). The one-game leader for Cleveland is Brad Daugherty, who took 24 rebounds to go with 21 points in an otherwise ugly road loss to the Cavs in 1991.
One of the Kings’ connections to the Cavs is their assistant coach Mike Longabardi, who was part of Tyronn Lue’s squad when Wine & Gold won the world championship in 2016.
One of the guys he coached back then – and now coaches – is Tristan Thompson, who spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Cavaliers. The 4th overall pick in the 2011 Draft, Thompson still ranks 3rd in Cavs history for total rebounds (5,393) and 4th overall for defensive boards (3,278). He also holds the franchise’s all-time streak, appearing in 447 straight games from the end of his rookie season.