CLEVELAND, Ohio – Last time Larry Nance Jr. he saw such a performance that was here in Cleveland. It was when James Harden, then with the Houston Rockets, came into town and poured in 55 points. For Cavaliers head coach JB Bickerstaff, Collin Sexton’s excessive scoring in the late game went back to the days when he was with Harden in Houston. Taurean Prince was contemplating Kyrie Irving’s glittering debut in Brooklyn in which he scored 50.
Cleveland was at the NBA epicenter Wednesday night. All eyes were on the Nets. It was Irving’s first game in two weeks. Debut of the latest big three in the league.
But on the field where some of the brightest NBA stars were – Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant – no one shone brighter than Sexton.
This was his arrival – out of ambiguity playing for the Cavs basement and in the center of the state’s attention as the league’s most pleasant surprise stone.
“I don’t pay enough attention to what the hell is going on to know the perception of him around the league. But I know I’m watching it and I don’t know what year this is for me – 17 or 18 – it’s not normal. He is not a regular NBA player. He is a dynamic scorer, ”Bickerstaff told cleveland.com after a double overtime of 147-135. “We have to win more games and put him in a position to close more games where people respect what he can do and what he is capable of. That is our responsibility and that is our goal. The more he does when moments are most important, I think people will gain more respect for him. “
Nothing better moment than Wednesday.
In his first game after an absence of five games due to an ankle sprain. Given that the Cavs had a chance to crawl back to the .500 mark after hitting a rough patch filled with injury. At the heels of Kevin Porter Jr., considered by many to be the most natural of Cleveland’s young core, banished for unprofessionalism. Against the Nets, the NBA’s fascinating super team and one of the favorites for the title. Against Irving, this night’s guest of honor who has an extensive catalog of striking photographs and whose trade demand for 2017 eventually led to Sexton’s arrival – the two forever connected.
“I’m in Cleveland, I’m wearing number 2 and I’m wearing Kyrie. It will be connected. I have to take it. I can’t control what people say, but I can control what I do, ”Sexton admitted. “It was good to go against him tonight. I definitely accepted the challenge and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. The simple fact that Kyrie, he attacks you every night is ready to go, and tonight was good. “
It’s an understatement. Try extraordinary. Unforgettable. One of the best individual performances in the history of the franchise. A 42-point masterpiece that included 20 straight for the Cavs during the relegation, 22 combined points in both overtimes and 15 of 20 teams in the double overtime as Sexton threw shots from the entire floor.
He became the second Cavs player to score 20 in a row in the last two decades, joining LeBron James.
As Sexton’s 3-point bombs continued to bury Brooklyn late, Irving couldn’t help but laugh and laugh. Durant shook his head. Sexton’s teammates became ballistic.
“It simply came to our notice then. He was unconscious. He was beside himself. He did all the recordings. It was nice to watch, ”said Cedi Osman, who scored 25 points and stabilized the attack early as Sexton shook off the rust. “You see, there’s a lot of difference in Collin’s game. He was obviously (good) last year, and even better this year. “
“He got to the point where I was talking about trash before the bullet came in at all,” Jarrett Allen said after his Cavs debut against his old team. “I didn’t know he had any of that in him. I heard he went to Boston once, but this was the second level. “
“Trust is one thing a child doesn’t lack … and with good reason,” Nance said.
With the score tied at the end of regulation after Irving’s failure, the Cavs called it a timeout. There was no doubt what Bickerstaff wanted. He put the ball in Sexton’s hands, started the move with Isaac Okor and Osman, and let Sexton go one-on-one against Irving. Only Sexton dribbled the ball off his foot – an expensive accident at an inappropriate time that gave Nets a chance to win.
Sexton didn’t sulk or look at the bench – a bad habit at the beginning of his career. He went back to the defense and drew something that looked like a foul against Irving who was driving. The show was interrupted after a challenge from Steve Nash, and two teams gathered in the center field for a bouncing ball, which killed the rest of the hour.
Sexton had a few more rough possessions during overtime – missed floaters, layouts and 3-minutes – but his guy reduced Brooklyn’s advantage to 10.7 seconds.
“Young bull, he really saved me in that show,” Osman said of his balloon. “And it was a hell of a show. He kept us in the game. “
Then Sexton put another 1.2 in Irving’s face with a cold-blooded dagger to equalize the game. That bucket, which resembled some of Irving’s late players with the Cavs, effectively sent a convincing showdown to another NW.
Then Sexton broke out.
“He was exhausted,” Bickerstaff said, laughing. “Somehow he somehow made himself shoot. You become a much better coach when you have guys who can do it. Don’t overdo it and don’t overdo it. Just let Collin be Collin and take us home. He could have done it. “
Even with some of Sexton’s stumbles, Bickerstaff never thought about leaving him, not even when the Nets switched everything late.
“Where we are currently aggressive with the bodies we have, he has to be the focal point,” Bickerstaff said. “She can beat her man. It can put pressure on the defense. They know which show you will perform, they know which set you will perform. It was almost like a playoff game. The playoffs come down to whether you can beat your man? We are convinced that Collin can beat his man. It was literally just trying to put him in a position to be able to go and play a one-on-one basketball game. “
So what was Bickerstaff thinking at the time?
“An old clip of Doug Collins – give the ball to Michael (Jordan) and get f — out of the way,” Bickerstaff explained. “Just give him space to go do his own thing.”
Sexton did so, preventing the Cavs from squandering a 14-point advantage, responding to every informed Brooklyn trio, and continuing to prove they suspect they are wrong.
In his freshman year, Sexton struggled with harsh remarks from his own teammates about the readiness and unjustified place some believed came because of his draft. He arrived with a reputation as a bad scorer, a draft pick that the Cavs were supposed to trade to get another winner to chase the title in LeBron’s final season. This was followed by constant chatter about total assists and a “natural” position.
When the Sexton season 2019-20. He ended up with a furious scoring rush that put him in the company of some of the best players in the conference, it supposedly didn’t count, because it came at the end of the season when the opponent didn’t care, because “someone had to score” on a bad team or because the Cavs didn’t were good enough to win the games, making those hollow numbers – none of those factors were Sexton’s fault.
At this point, critics are running out of things to say.
“For whatever reason, and I wasn’t here early, there’s this story about Collin,” Bickerstaff told cleveland.com. “We are incredibly happy to have him. I look at his ability to throw the ball in the basket and there aren’t a lot of guys in our league who can do what he does. There are about 20 types of about 480 or as many as anyone can do what he does. Then there is another smaller group of those who can do what he does in moments filled with pressure.
“The hardest part for Collin is, and just because of the circumstances, he didn’t have a lot of those moments because of the records we had in the past. He has the ability to stand out in those moments. It’s not for everyone. It just isn’t. There are dynamic shooters and great players. But not everyone can do what they do in those moments. None of us are perfect, are we? But Collin doesn’t deserve s — they say about him. “
There are very few players able to go foot to toe, shot for shot with KD, Kyrie and Harden. Sexton is. Not many can turn Irving’s long-awaited return to Cleveland, just the second time since they shattered the hopes of the Cavaliers Championship, into a footnote. Sexton is.
This is not new. He has been doing this since last December. Wednesday was exactly the night Sexton finally forced everyone to stand up and notice.
And change their flawed perception.
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