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Dante Exum relished opportunity to guard Trae Young, says he has ‘list of names’ he wants to guard

Dante Exum Cavs

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dante Exum is embracing his role as a stopper, which included helping keep Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young in check on Saturday night.

Young entered the game against the Cavaliers as the third-leading scorer in the NBA, but ended up with just 16 points in the Cavs’ 96-91 victory.

“I love it,” Exum told about being assigned to guard Young. “I’ve got my little list of names. Every now and then I try to pick someone and whether it’s the matchup I get as a starter, against someone like Trae, or if I’m coming off the bench, it’s who I’ve got circled for the game.”

Exum chose not to disclose the names on his list, but indicated that the challenge of competing against the best serves as inspiration.

“It’s just for me. A personal list,” he said. “I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs, but with a guy who was an All-Star last year and matching up with him, it’s a big thing for me. I made sure I was watching film last night on the little things he does and anything I can try to stop him.”

Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff had issued a halftime challenge with the Cavaliers trailing the Hawks 56-44 and the team undermanned because of injuries.

Exum was one of a number of Cavaliers who helped the team come back and stop a two-game losing streak after the team opened with three straight wins.

That role for Exum has grown since he was acquired by the Cavaliers in the December 2019 deal that sent Jordan Clarkson to the Utah Jazz.

With the injury-plagued Cavs trying to compete for a playoff spot, Exum’s defensive skills will be important to turning that prospect into reality. It seems clear that Exum is relishing his chance to make an impact on the court.

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