Sexton's recent play gives Cavs a glimpse of the future

The rookie has scored at least 23 points in six-straight games

James Rapien
March 19, 2019 - 12:21 am
Mar 18, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton (2) dribbles against Detroit Pistons guard Ish Smith (14) in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

© David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Collin Sexton was all smiles after the Cavaliers’ 126-119 win over Detroit on Monday night. The rookie finished with 27 points, making three three-pointers in the final six minutes of the game to lead the Cavs to their 18th victory of the season.

Sexton hit the dagger with 40 seconds to go that gave Cleveland a 121-114 advantage.

“You want players to live for those moments,” head coach Larry Drew said. “Collin has shown that he’s not going to shy away from it. I don’t care how big the moment is, this guy, he embraces it. You don’t see a lot of rookies do that. You don’t see some veteran players do it, but this guy, he wants it in crunch time situations.”

Sexton has had an up and down rookie season, but it’s impossible to look at what he’s done and not see the potential he has. The Young Bull broke Kyrie Irving’s rookie record for three-pointers made. He’s scored at least 23 points in six-straight games. That ties Austin Carr for the most consecutive games with at least 23 points by a rookie in Cavs’ history. LeBron James never did that. Irving didn’t do it. That’s a huge accomplishment for Sexton.

“I’m not surprised just because I put in the work,” he said. “I know that it’s eventually going to pay off. I just continue to work each and everyday when I’m in the gym. My teammates have been there from the beginning. They’ve been coaching me up and I appreciate them.”

The 20-year-old says he doesn’t pay attention to critics. There’s been plenty of criticism thrown his way this season. Some believe Sexton is a bust because he only averages three assists-per-game. Others think he isn’t a good enough shooter to have sustained success in the NBA.

“Point guards in our league are scorers,” Drew said. “Very few are just pass-only point guards.”

The head coach wasn’t the only one who commented on Sexton’s scoring ability.

"There's nothing wrong with that," Channing Frye said when asked if Sexton was a 'score-first' guard. "There are only three or four pass-first guards in this league. I think what he needs to do is understand he's going to get around 20 shots a game, so listen, you don't need to get all 20 in the first quarter young fella. Get your teammates involved and it's going to make your job easier.

"If he's guarded one-on-one he's pretty dang good. It's just learning and evolving."

Sexton has certainly improved since the Cavaliers drafted him last summer. There were plenty of people who didn’t think he would be able to make three-pointers with any consistency. Sexton made 5-of-6 threes on Monday. He’s shooting nearly 55 percent from beyond the arc in his last seven games and is making over 40 percent of his threes this season.

Sexton credits his father for helping him with his mechanics. There are things they needed to “tweak.” He wouldn’t say what was corrected, but whatever they did is working.

“He certainly has grown as a shooter,” Drew said. “I don’t think anybody can knock his ability to shoot the three. And I watch him day after day work on it. This guy spends time in the gym before practice and he stays after practice and really works on his three ball. You watch his shot and it may not be the prettiest thing, but it’s consistent.”

Monday night was a critical step in Sexton’s development. His recent play has opened some eyes, but a lot of people attributed it to Kevin Love returning to the court. The five-time All-Star didn’t play on Monday.

Sexton put the team on his back and made big shot after big shot in the final minutes. He didn’t shy away from the moment. He didn’t look nervous or get rattled when the Pistons tried to be physical with him. Sexton kept his composure and gave fans a glimpse of what the future could look like. Detroit entered Monday as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They need every win they can get. Instead, a rookie delivered haymaker after haymaker down the stretch and sent Detroit home with a loss.

The Cavs’ future looks much brighter than it did a few months ago. Sexton has emerged and Cedi Osman continues to grow and develop. The 23-year-old couldn’t help but smile when he was asked about the Cavs’ future.

“We’re really excited,” Osman said. “I really believe that next year everything’s going to be different. We just have to be patient. We’re working really hard and I know that next year we’ll be a tough team to beat.”

The Cavs just beat a playoff team without Love. Blake Griffin didn’t play for Detroit, but the Pistons probably thought they could win in Cleveland without him. The Cavs didn’t just win without their best player, but they did it with the eighth overall pick leading the way.

That statement would’ve sounded crazy three months ago, but it was reality on Monday night.