Cavaliers hold on to beat Hornets 100-98
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - For young players starting out in the NBA, nothing is guaranteed. Playing time isn’t certain, nor is having the opportunity to develop under extremely knowledgeable coaches. Heck, simply securing a spot on a roster is unattainable for most young players.
In the Cleveland Cavaliers’ case, the franchise drafted 20-year-old point guard Collin Sexton with the eighth-overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and followed that selection by taking another point guard in the 2019 lottery, 19-year-old Darius Garland with the fifth-overall pick. And although both players are listed at a mere 6-foot-1, many believe that the duo will be the backcourt tandem that will lead the Cavaliers into the next decade.
As famed college football announcer Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.” Even the Cavaliers’ promising young backcourt isn’t guaranteed to be together for the foreseeable future.
Garland and Sexton have started every game in the backcourt for the Cavs this season with Sexton learning shooting guard duties on the fly after playing the point a season ago. But prior to Cleveland’s Wednesday evening matchup with the Charlotte Hornets, Cavs rookie head coach John Beilein said there’s no guarantee that duo will be the Cavs starting backcourt for years to come.
“I don’t think any of that is determined,” Beilein said. “We’re open to everything as we go forward. Those two, they’re both growing all the time, whether they’re in together or they’re not in together…I don’t think whether they’re together, whether they’re not together is too important just right now as just continuing to learn how to play.”
Against the Hornets in Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Wednesday, Garland and Sexton led the Cavs to a 100-98 victory. Sexton led the Cavs (7-21) with a team-high 23 points, while Garland recorded a career-high tying six assists to go along with seven points.
“There’s always progress every day, but there’s so much to learn in this game and these guys are so new to the NBA game,” Beilein said. “But they’re growing every single day, that’s all we can ask them to do. They’re very interested and excited about learning more, very coachable, just been watching a lot of film trying to learn what they can learn at this time in their lives.
“I think Darius is in probably the best physical shape he has been in, injuries set him back a little bit from last year. Collin’s always been in great shape.”
The Cavs never trailed against Charlotte (13-18), leading by as many as 12 points in the first quarter. Cleveland led 29-21 when the first quarter ended and only poured it on from there.
When Sexton sank a seven-foot floater with 3:03 remaining until halftime, the Cavs took their largest lead of the half, 47-34. After failing to take a lead in the first two quarters, the Hornets could have looked at their 53-41 halftime deficit as a plus. Yet in still, it only got worse for the team from the Queen City.
When Garland splashed a 30-foot three-pointer with 8:51 showing in the third quarter, the Cavs took their largest lead of the night, 67-43. The Hornets, however, battled all the way back, cutting the Cavs’ advantage to as few as two points in the final minute. Cleveland, though, kept Charlotte at bay, aided by clutch free throws and two big Sexton buckets in the final 3:30.
The Hornets actually had a chance to take the lead in the final seconds after Sexton dribbled the ball off his foot on Cleveland’s final possession. But Charlotte point guard Terry Rozier, who scored a career-high 35 points against Cleveland, missed the go-ahead three-pointer with 3.9 seconds to play.
“Charlotte is really playing so well right now,” Cavs head coach John said. “They seem like a connected group, not as deep as probably the coach would want them to be, but they’ve really been good because of that.”
Cedi Osman finished with 18 points, while Kevin Love notched his 12th double-double of the season with 16 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. Tristian Thompson produced his team-leading 14th double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Picking up just their seventh victory of the season, the Cavs youngsters are learning life in the NBA. Whether Sexton and Garland are the Cavs backcourt of the future remains to be seen.
POSTED 12/18/2019 21:58