Cavaliers turn Kings into peons with 117-103 win
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) -When Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton was lost for the season in early November due to a torn meniscus, there was doubt regarding how the Cavs would fare the rest of the season. Those doubts have been silenced.
Cleveland has won seven of its last nine games, the latest being a 117-103 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday evening. The Cavs scored a season-high 81 points in the first half against Sacramento, and it looked like they were going to cruise to another victory in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The Kings made a commendable comeback in the second half, but the first half deficit was too much for them to overcome.
“I think it’s just to continue in the direction we’re heading,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said about what is ahead for the Cavaliers this season minus Sexton. “We are far from a perfect basketball team. I think our attitude, our buy in, those things have been excellent, but there’s still room for improvement. We’re still waiting to put together the total 48 that we talk about. So, as long as we keep focusing on those things, I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
The win against the Kings (11-16) was Cleveland’s third straight by at least 14 points, and it was largely due to another hot start. The Cavs led 36-23 when the first quarter ended and by as many as 16 in the opening period, as seven Cavaliers made at least one shot. In the second quarter, Cleveland blew the game open.
The Cavs (16-12) outscored the Kings 45-29 in the second quarter en route to an 81-52 halftime lead. The FieldHouse was rocking throughout the quarter, as the Kings had no answers for Cleveland’s lethal shooting. The Cavs shot 61 percent from the field in the first half, while four Cavaliers had already reached double figures in scoring by intermission.
The second half was a different story, as the Kings won the third quarter 26-20 and started the fourth quarter on an 18-2 run. With six minutes remaining in the ball game, Sacramento cut Cleveland’s lead all the way down to seven points, 103-96. They never got any closer, despite the Cavs scoring only 36 points in the second half.
Cavs guard Isaac Okoro scored a season-high in points for the second straight game, finishing with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists. Cedi Osman scored all 18 of his points in the first half, while Jarrett Allen recorded the 100th double-double of his career with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Those weren’t the only standout performances for the Cavs, as rookie forward Evan Mobley totaled 15 points and 15 rebounds. Ricky Rubio, who knocked down several big three-pointers down the stretch, finished with 15 points and three assists.
Darius Garland, who has been superb in Sexton’s absence, recorded his eighth double-double of the season, finishing with 16 points, a career-high 13 assists and seven rebounds. The Cavs point guard has already surpassed his total amount of double-doubles in his first two seasons combined (7).
“He saw one of his teammates go down and knew the void that needed to be filled, and then had the skill, ability and intellect to go ahead and fill it,” Bickerstaff said of Garland. “Not everybody is capable of that. Everybody knows what Collin means to us as a team and that void that was going to be needed to be filled. We didn’t expect one person to fill that void, but Darius took huge steps there and knew what he had to do in order to keep this team afloat and continue to help this team improve.”
The Cavaliers returned home on Saturday after securing a dominating victory over the Timberwolves in Minnesota the night before. With the win over the Kings, the Cavs put together their second straight wire-to-wire victory in which they never trailed at any point in the game. They showed no signs of fatigue, despite it being the fifth game in seven nights and the second leg of a back-to-back.
Without Sexton, it was a mystery how the Cavs would do offensively minus one of their best scorers. A combination of solid offense and supreme defense has led to Cleveland winning its last seven games by at least 13 points. Bickerstaff gave an update on Sexton, who hasn’t been with the team after undergoing surgery last month.
“He’s in Atlanta, he’s doing his PT,” Bickerstaff said. “He’s watching all our games and making sure he stays engaged with the team and all those things, but this is the difficult part of the rehab because the worst thing that we could do is ask him to get on a plane and have him traveling and all those things. He’s in contact with our training staff and we got guys going to see him.”
With the win over Sacramento, Cleveland moved back to .500 at home this season (7-7). They’ll look for their fourth straight win on Monday when they host the Miami Heat .
POSTED 12/11/2021 23:10