DETROIT — Cavaliers rookie point guard Collin Sexton played one of his best all-around quarters of the young season in the fourth on Thursday against the Detroit Pistons and nearly led Cleveland to its first victory in come-from-behind fashion.
Sexton scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth and hooked up with sharpshooter Kyle Korver to assist on three field goals, including a pair of 3-pointers as the Cavs rallied late to cut Detroit’s lead to six with just under a minute to play.
Despite the comeback falling short, coach Tyronn Lue said Sexton showed tremendous growth, especially in his understanding of how to play with a veteran like Korver, who’s 16-point outburst in the fourth was manufactured in large part thanks to Sexton’s hustle and vision.
“The passes have to be timing,” Lue said. “They have to be on-time, on-target. Teams are trying to take (Korver) out of the offense. Tonight (Sexton) did a good job of delivering the basketball a few times to Kyle, getting him shots. I thought he understood when to push the basketball and attack in transition.”
Sexton added a pair of steals in the quarter, and was involved in a scrum for a loose ball in front of Detroit’s bench with 30 seconds left that resulted in a jump ball against Pistons guard Langston Galloway.
“I know he’s a scoring point guard,” Lue said. “But we want him to be all-around. That’s what he’s becoming, and it’s good to see.”
Lue played Sexton the entire period despite starter George Hill’s success against the Pistons in the first half. Hill finished with 15 points and a pair of steals in just under 23 minutes, but did not record an assist for the second consecutive game. Sexton played 25 minutes off the bench and tied Larry Nance Jr. for the team lead with five assists.
Lue said he has communicated with the players that he’s going to stick with whomever has the hot hand to close out games.
“That’s the type of team we have right now,” Lue said. “Collin got a couple layups, got a steal in the back court. Made some good plays. That second unit was rolling, so we just stayed with them. When our second unit is playing well like that, there will be a lot of nights like that.”
Korver credited his teammate for taking the right approach to learning his position. He said NBA point guards need to be able to read both ends of the floor and have a feel for their teammates. It can be a daunting task for a rookie.
“He’s trying to learn us as players and trying to learn the NBA game,” Korver said. “The thing about Collin that we all love is that he wants to learn. He wants to be good. He’s going to keep getting better.”
Sexton said his approach to getting Korver the ball is pretty simple.
“If I see his hands, no matter if he’s around a screen, just throw it,” Sexton said. “Just because of how much of a great shooter he is. I’ve been playing with him a couple games now and I know where he likes the ball. I’ve just got to deliver it on-time and on-target.”
Sexton said he was able to correct a few mistakes on the defensive end Thursday and he thinks that’s one of the reasons he was able to play the entire fourth quarter.
“It’s big,” he said. “It’s giving me a learning experience. I’ve never really closed a game out in the NBA. It’s good to leave me out there and try to fight through and try to bring the team back.”