CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff summed up Collin Sexton’s return to the lineup with one short, six-word sentence.
“Collin Sexton brought us home tonight,” Bickerstaff said.
Sexton’s game-high 42-points brought the Cavaliers back, and the crowd to life, as the wine and gold willed their way to a 147-135 win in double overtime Wednesday night at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
“What Collin has proven time and time again against all his doubters is that he’s not afraid of the big moments, and he likes pressure-filled moments,” Bickerstaff said. “Not everybody in our league has the courage to do what he did tonight. Not everyone in our league has the ability to do what he did tonight.”
With each triple that Sexton buried in the second overtime, the cheers from the 1,944 fans in attendance grew louder and louder.
Had it been a full-house, the Cavaliers may be in need of a new roof. Sexton poured in 15 points in the second overtime, including going 4-for-5 from three-point land.
Star power can be a beautiful thing in the NBA.
While Sexton and the Cavs may lack the big-name allure of the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James harden who across the floor from him Wednesday, they more than make up for in grit, guts and determination.
They had a 13-point fourth quarter lead erased. They surrendered 30-point nights from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. They pulled themselves back from five points down in the first overtime.
“That was a hell of an effort,” Cedi Osman said. “He played out of his mind. We were just watching. IT was amazing, I don’t know what to say.”
They exchanged blows with the one of the Eastern Conference’s supposed-to-be-best all night. Each time Brooklyn landed a punch, the Cavaliers swung back harder.
“Give the entire team credit for their resilience and staying in it through some difficult times,” Bickerstaff said.
The past met the future Wednesday night. Kyrie Irving made just his second appearance in Cleveland since being traded after the 2017 season.
“I am in Cleveland, I do wear no. 2 and I do wear Kyrie’s, so you know that’s going to be linked together,” Sexton said. “ I’m going to come in each and every day ready to work. I can’t control what people say I just control what I do.
Irving had himself quite the return; 33 points on 13-of-25 shooting.
“Just having that battle and that challenge tonight, I definitely accepted the challenge, Sexton said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, Just the simple fact that it’s Kyrie. He’s coming at you each and every night ready to go. Tonight was a good one.”
But it was the man they call “Young Bull” wearing Irving’s former No. 2 jersey sinking dagger after dagger into the Nets, one over Durant, another over Irving himself.
“I was smiling as he was knocking down all those shots,” Irving said.
Sexton’s big night comes in his first action since missing five games with an ankle injury. He looked like he didn’t miss a beat. He scored 20 of the last 23 points for the wine and gold.
“I felt like he had a good feel for the game, he had a rhythm and there was no need for me to step in the way and mess him up,” Bickerstaff said.
As the Cavaliers got a little healthier, they also integrated newly acquired Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince into the lineup. Allen posted a double-double coming off the bench in his first game with 12 point and 11 rebounds. Meanwhile, Prince chipped in 17 points of his own.
In total, seven Cavaliers scored in double figures. Osman poured in 25 points, seven assist and seven rebounds. Larry Nance Jr. and Damyean Dotson added 15 points each and Andre Drummond notched 13 points.
Suddenly, the offensively challenged Cavaliers were finding points in every corner.
“We struggled offensively a lot because of decisions that I’ve made through injuries,” Bickerstaff said. “You remember back to the beginning of the season when we had bodies, we were able to play a style of basketball where we can manufacture points. We were getting close to 30 assists a night, We were down six of our top ten guys at one point.”
If Wednesday night’s matchup with the Nets was your quintessential litmus test; a game to see how you measured up against a contender, the Cavaliers passed.
“We know we got a fight coming in here on Friday. We’re not resting on our laurels tonight about one game,” Bickerstaff said. “These are the moments when the true tests come. How do you respond when you know a team of that caliber, you’ve got to see them in 48 hours.”