Cavaliers stun Nuggets 104-102
Delly sets career high with 14 assists
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - It’s tough to get much better of a compliment than being compared to possibly the best player in a sport. But that’s what Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff did for second-year point guard Collin Sexton on Saturday.
“The way he’s starting to feel the entire game,” Bickerstaff said about what positives he has seen during Sexton’s recent hot scoring streak. “I was kind of reading this stuff about Patrick Mahomes talking about how he’s starting to figure out how to read defenses, and that kind of came in my mind as well. Collin has been blessed with unique ability, and now you can see it where he’s starting to figure out how teams are going to play him, and now it just makes him that much more dangerous.
“You look at the plays that he’s able to make now, the passes that he makes now, teams are going to have to make tough decisions. Do we keep two guys on him? He’s making the right play now. He’s getting the ball popping to bigs for threes and those types of things…there’s a plan of attack he’s playing with now.”
Mahomes may be the best player in the National Football League, and to be compared to such a revolutionary player is the ultimate compliment. Entering Saturday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets, Sexton had posted back-to-back career-high nights. He began the week with a 32-point outing against the Utah Jazz on Monday and followed that performance with a 42-point performance on Wednesday against the Boston Celtics.
Sexton didn’t slow down on Saturday, either, finishing with 25 points, six rebounds and five assists en route to a thrilling 104-102 victory in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The victory snapped Cleveland’s four-game losing streak.
“Our guys deserve it,” Bickerstaff said. “We try not to focus on the results as we’re trying to grow and get to where we want to be, but everybody needs that affirmation that what we are doing is the right thing. For us and our sport, winning is that.”
With the Cavaliers shorthanded, missing point guard Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr. and Andre Drummond, the Nuggets (42-21) were the favored team entering the evening. And when Denver center Nikola Jokic converted a layup with 5:35 remaining in the first quarter, the Nuggets took a 23-12 lead, their largest of the game. and it looked like they would pull away from the Cavs early.
Denver point guard Jamal Murray splashed a three-pointer at the buzzer signaling the end of the first quarter, and the Nuggets took a 33-23 lead into the second quarter. But despite Denver making 7-of-12 three-pointers in the first quarter, the Cavs wouldn’t go away quietly.
Cleveland (18-45) trailed by a slim three-point margin exiting halftime, 61-58, and the kept the comeback rolling into the third quarter. When Matthew Dellavedova, who started in place of Garland, sank a layup less than a minute into the second half, the Cavs took their first lead of the evening at 62-61. The momentum had clearly shifted, evidenced by Denver head coach Michael Malone receiving a technical foul for arguing just minutes into the second half.
Entrenched in a battle until the final moments, the Cavs found themselves trailing 93-90 following a Michael Porter Jr. jumper with 7:08 remaining in the fourth quarter. Cleveland, though, immediately put together a 10-0 run, capped by back-to-back Dellavedova and Kevin Love three-pointers to take a 100-93 lead with 2:50 to play. The Nuggets never regained a lead, and Murray missed a jump shot just before the final buzzer that would have sent the game to overtime.
Love finished with 27 points and six rebounds, while Cedi Osman contributed 20 points. Pressed into a starting role, Dellavedova was spectacular. He only scored seven points, but three of them came on his big three-pointer late in the game. Delly also finished with a career-high 14 assists and six rebounds.
Sexton fell just short of his third consecutive 30-point game, but with his performances on Monday and Wednesday, he became the first Cavalier with back-to-back 30-plus point games since LeBron James in 2018. Sexton also became just the seventh player in franchise history to record back-to-back 30-plus point games in their first or second season.
Sexton also seems like he enjoys big moments, which might offer a glimpse of what kind of player he could eventually be in the playoffs. Earlier this season, he dropped 31 points in Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks and became the youngest NBA player ever to score 30-plus points without recording a turnover at MSG. Earlier this year on his birthday, Sexton scored a game-high 30 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder and became the first NBA player to ever record 30-plus points, five-plus rebounds and zero turnovers on his birthday at age 21 or younger.
“The most difficult thing to do in this league is to learn how to win,” Bickerstaff said. “We are fortunate that we have a couple guys on this team that have won at the highest level, so they can help teach and help us move a little more quickly.”
Not only does Sexton show promise for future pressure moments, he’s also durable. Sexton has played in every game of his career (145 games), the longest streak by a player who started their career with the Cavs since Andre Miller, who played in his first 185 contests nearly two decades ago.
Sexton and the Cavs will look for a second straight victory on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs.
POSTED 03/07/2020 22:30