HOUSTON – On February 11, inside the Portland Nines, Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and Collin Sexton reunited for an exclusive shoot.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Sexton had had his worst game as a professional, tying his career with four points on 1 of 9 shots in 29 minutes.
Smothered by a defensive swarm of the Denver Nuggets specially designed to make the All-Star contestant uncomfortable, putting multiple bodies in his way, Sexton couldn’t figure out the game plan. It was one of Cleveland’s lowest points of the season, being embarrassed and retreating in a bragging 38-point loss to the Nuggets, the kind of performance that led to self-assessment by everyone. , especially Sexton.
Bickerstaff saw nothing unusual in Sexton’s game against Denver. It was a very bad night. But the two discussed different scenarios, defensive cover and how Sexton might vary his approach.
Unfiltered, Bickerstaff also spoke with Sexton about his importance and the kind of player he needs for the Cavs to perform at their best.
Since then, Sexton has been different. He scored at least 20 points over the nine games, scoring an impressive two-week reversal with a 39-point explosion against the Houston Rockets on Monday night, leading the Cavs to a 100-91 win and their first four-streak. consecutive victories since the 2017-18 season.
I don’t want to take credit for it, “Bickerstaff told cleveland.com.” He’s made a decision and he’s trying hard. He immersed himself in the team and he made the team grow. He does whatever it takes to help us win. ”
Sexton admitted that he watched this Denver game about four or five times, acknowledging the variety of ways they were protecting him. Then other teams started to copy. With Sexton playing on the pick-and-roll so often, he saw cover from ICE or Down – the defender on the ball forced him out of the way, away from the screen in midfield. Saw Show Coverage: Defenders hung him up for a few dribbles before bouncing off the original blocker. He saw bombardments: several defenders trying to get the ball out of his hands. There have been a few instances of opponents going under screens, but not as many as before in their careers, often indicating a lack of respect for a player’s outside shot.
Getting so much attention, being harassed by the best on the other side, Sexton felt like he was allowing the defense to dictate the terms. It was time to get back to basics.
I realized I was taking pictures that I know I can take, but not the one I want to take, “Sexton said after Monday’s win.” I feel like I’m taking my time on the pick-and-roll or whatever situation and I see the basket, I feel I can do the shot. I train, work hard, many hours in the gym every day so I continue to be confident in my craft and keep improving and working hard every day. I knew it had to be better for my colleagues ”.
Since that atypical night in Denver, Sexton has averaged 26.6 points on 49.1% on the field and 36.2% on 3 points to go with 4.2 assists and 7.4 free throws.
On Monday, Sexton eclipsed Houston playmaker John Wall with the kind of performance that’s been common in Cleveland’s four-game winning streak – a drastic change that reignited playoff talk.
In the last four games, Sexton has averaged 29.8 points on 50% shooting and 42.3% from beyond the arc to go with 4.8 assists. But after his best individual performance since the statement against Brooklyn over a month ago, Sexton declined to talk about increasing his individual score, whether he should be in the conversation of the most improved player or though the Cavs are aware of his place in the pecking order. of the Eastern Conference. He wanted to focus on another win, the total team effort it takes to beat an angry Rockets team and a chance to make it five straight before the All-Star break.
“I just trust my teammates. Play together, ”Sexton said. “Tonight we keep moving the ball and we’re having a lot of fun. They continued to feed on each other. Coach J.B. He talked about playing together, competing and playing hard the whole game. Tonight I feel like we made it. We knew they were going to come out and be tough because they played last night’s game and they were devastated. ”
The Cavs upped the defense and held Houston to 40 points in the second half. They found an outside shot, hitting seven long bullets in the last 24 minutes. There was a good contribution from the bank, with Cedi Osman and JaVale McGee each reaching double-digit numbers. But Monday was about Sexton, three points off his best score of the night, continuing to play a winning style with an efficient offense and eight assists, the team’s best.
“He wasn’t going to let us lose,” Bickerstaff said. “They have good individual defenders and they change with length and that’s where you have to beat your man. Collin has the ability to beat his man. It was amazing for us tonight. He played with a goal. He fought with a lot of contact and physical. He didn’t let that deter him. They broke him in the mouth, gave him stitches, he came right back and went back to work.
“We know what we need from Collin and he plays a big role in what we do, obviously. What we need to do is continue to find certain nights where teams play with him in certain ways to help him break free and make his job a little easier. But when he plays that way, he makes it easier for everyone and makes everyone better because he focuses and pays a lot of attention to himself. It’s a weapon. ”
In the middle of the first quarter, Sexton and Jarrett Allen played a two-man game. Sexton slipped around an Allen screen, calmly held his dribble and stood up, pulling center Justin Patton towards him. While suspended in the air, Sexton threw a pass at Allen for a stalemate. On the Cleveland bench across the road, Matthew Dellavedova and player development coach Mike Gerrity, who has been overseeing Sexton’s development from day one, pointed out in unison. JaVale McGee appeared to celebrate. It was the kind of job that Sexton was asked to do. Another sign of growth for the third year care.
“He’s always working, trying to improve himself,” McGee said. “I knew passing the ball was something I had to work on. I have the impression that these past games that we have won, he tries more and more to integrate it into his game. Tonight he had eight assists. That’s great. Just seeing this young man work and his bravery, aggressiveness and tenacity is very impressive. It’s fun when he plays like that. ”
While Bickerstaff doesn’t want him, Sexton credited his fourth coach in three years for trusting him.
“I wasn’t myself so I knew I had to be better and now I’m starting to play and I don’t think about the game or worry about making mistakes,” Sexton said. “Coach J.B., he said,“ You’re going to make mistakes and I don’t care. Just keep playing hard. “When you have a coach who’s willing to keep rocking with you, whether you have a turnover or a bad patch or things like that, it feels good. It’s really nice to know that you don’t. You don’t have to look over your shoulder even though he’s going to scream and scream at it and everything. But when he’s screaming and screaming, you’ve got to try to find the right and find the message around the screaming and screaming. ”
Apparently Sexton did. This movie shoot and the discussion with Bickerstaff in Portland helped. The same goes for Sexton’s relentless work ethic and the continued support of his teammates, the latter not always being around.
“I know how hard you work. I see it, ”said Osman, who was with Sexton for a bumpy rookie year. “Obviously he’s our top scorer. You will get what is yours. I think the most important thing for him, especially in attack, is that he knows just when to attack, when to stop and when to shoot the ball. I feel like he’s definitely one of those guys who really deserves the Most Improved Player of the Year award. I think he’s the one who dominates. We support it. He’s the one who’s going to score the ball, so we give him the ball and he does his thing. “