Cavaliers drop eleventh straight at home, fall to Knicks in OT 139-134
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - Collin Sexton is the Cleveland Cavaliers’ resident enigma.
The Cavs’ second-year shooting guard leads the team in scoring at 19.6 points per game after averaging a solid 16.7 as a rookie last season. He has increased his shooting percentage thus far this season from 43 percent a season ago to 46.2 percent, despite his three-point percentage dropping form 40.2 percent to 35.4 percent.
That 40.2 three-point shooting percentage ranked him in the top 20 among all players last season, one slot behind Golden State Warriors flamethrower Klay Thompson. Sexton made the All-Rookie second team last year and has never missed a game as a professional. He ranks third among all second-year players in scoring behind only Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic and Atlanta Hawks scoring machine Trae Young.
Sexton doesn’t seem to take plays off, appearing to compete as hard as possible on most possessions, which has been a gift and a curse. So why are there still so many questions about a young player who seems to have so much potential?
The answer often replied when that question is asked is his playing style.
As the Cavs starting point guard a season ago, Sexton averaged only three assists, often struggling to run the offense. Moved to shooting guard this season with the drafting of Darius Garland, Sexton’s assist numbers have dropped to 2.6 dimes per night. In transition, he can find himself moving and thinking to fast, becoming out of control with the ball; and in the half court, he sometimes pounds the ball into the floor until the shot clock shows only a few seconds.
The last thought was evidenced in early January against the Oklahoma City Thunder, when veteran power forward Kevin Love seemed visibly frustrated with Sexton on the court. The enigma that is Collin Sexton had struck again.
But with a player that has so much potential, the Cavs are tasked with rounding Sexton’s game into truly efficient shape. Entering Monday night’s contest against the New York Knicks, Sexton had scored at least 23 points in four straight games. He started Monday’s game against New York hot, scoring 16 points in the first half en route to 29 points and a season-high seven assists on the evening. The effort wasn’t enough, however, as Sexton and the Cavs fell to the Knicks in overtime, 139-134.
The loss was Cleveland’s 11th straight at home and 11th in their last 12 games overall.
“Great basketball game,” Cavs head coach John Beilein said. “We really competed. You see why the Knicks continue to improve.”
When Garland drained a three-pointer with 9:31 remaining in the first half, the Cavs secured a 45-36 lead and looked like they could put some distance between themselves and New York. The Knicks, however, immediately put together a 13-1 run, capped by a Dennis Smith Jr. dunk that gave New York a 49-46 lead with 6:25 showing. The Knicks run sparked them to a 63-62 halftime lead.
The Cavs have had plenty of horrific third quarters this season, but played one of their best third quarters against New York on Monday. Cleveland didn’t let the game slip away in the third, as they had done so often this season, and took a 100-95 lead into the fourth.
In the fourth, the Cavs kept their momentum flowing from the third. After a Smith Jr. three-pointer with 7:49 to play in the game, the Cavs and Knicks found themselves tied at 108 apiece. Two Kevin Love three-pointers, two Sexton free throws and a Cedi Osman alley-oop to Kevin Porter Jr. later, and the Cavs had a 118-108 lead with 5:16 to play, their largest of the evening. The lead was short-lived, though, as the Knicks regained the lead 122-120 on a Julius Randle dunk roughly three minutes later. Sexton tied the game at 127 with a three-pointer with 33 seconds to play, and neither team scored again in regulation.
Knicks forward Marcus Morris drained a jump shot with 13.6 seconds showing in overtime that gave New York a 137-134 lead. On the ensuing possession, Garland missed a 20-foot jumper that was eventually corralled by the Knicks. The Cavs were forced to foul, and Morris drained both free throws to ice the game.
“I thought we had some possessions that we just didn’t get the best shot,” Beilein said. “We took the first shot, and you can’t waste possessions like that.”
The Cavs were without Tristan Thompson, who was scratched just before the game because of a left quad strain. Larry Nance Jr. started in his place and reached double-figures in scoring for a career-high eighth straight game, totaling 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Kevin Love totaled a season-high 33 points with dix assists and 13 rebounds, his 19th double-double of the season. Garland finished with five assists and 14 points, the 18th time he has reached double figures in scoring in his last 19 games.
Six Knicks finished in double-figures in scoring, led by Morris’ 26 points. Elfrid Payton record his first triple-double of the season, totaling 17 points, 11 rebounds and 15 assists.
With any luck, Sexton will continue to develop and improve with more experience in the league. He’ll be back in action with the Cavs on Wednesday against the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
POSTED 02/03/2020 22:18