CLEVELAND — There was a time early in the 2018-2019 season that late in games, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Collin Sexton would be watching the action from the bench, but that has come and gone for the 20-year old rookie.
In back-to-back games against the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA’s best team, Sexton has come up with big shots and timely passes late in the fourth quarter to seal victories over the Eastern Conference playoff teams.
“We knew what we had to do down the stretch because they’re a good team, and we knew we couldn’t give up,” Sexton said. “If we would’ve made a mistake, they were going to capitalize on it, or if we turn the ball over, they were going to score, so we knew we had to take care of the ball down the stretch and just play together.
“It was cool to be out there, especially during that time, crunch time. I always want to be on the floor, especially at the end, and for me to make plays down the stretch is really cool.”
Cavaliers coach Larry Drew believes keeping Sexton on the bench during pressure-packed moments late in the games during the early part of the season has “been a big help” to the rookie’s professional development.
“It’s not always going to turn out positive, but the most important thing is that you learn from it,” Drew said. “As we have progressed through the season, I think he’s done that. I think he’s learned a great deal being out there and going through it. I think he’s learned how to play in those crunch-time situations.”
Sexton added, “It just motivates you because you want to be out there in the final seconds. I just have to pick up my defense, my efforts on defense just because sometimes, they take me out on the defensive side, so I have to pick that up, and then, offensive side, just have to make shots. That’s it.”
During the 107-102 win over the Bucks Wednesday, Sexton converted 10 of his 18 shots from the field, including a four-for-seven showing from three-point range, on the way to a team-best 25 points to go along with three assists and two rebounds in 35 minutes.
Sexton’s success against the Bucks marked the sixth time in the last seven games in which he knocked down at least 10 shots and fifth time that he converted at least four three-point attempts.
“My teammates, they scream and yell at me for pump-faking, taking the one dribble and shooting mid-range,” Sexton said. “They scream and yell at me, so I was like, I might as well start shooting. I practice on it, I might as well shoot it.”
By scoring 25 points against the Bucks, Sexton broke the Cavaliers’ rookie record for the most consecutive games with at least 23 points. The first Cavaliers rookie ever to have seven straight 23-point games, Sexton was the first NBA player to accomplish the feat since Tim Duncan did so in 1998.
“That’s what’s up,” Sexton said. “He’s a legend, and for me to get that stat, that’s pretty cool. I’m just out there playing my game, and that’s it.”
Drew added, “It’s a phenomenal feat though, if you think about it. Who was the last rookie to do it? Tim Duncan, so man, that’s pretty good company there. Pretty good company.”