Cavs guard Collin Sexton shows growth in controlling his pace in win over Atlanta Hawks

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton wasn’t about to let the Atlanta Hawks force him out of his rhythm.

One of Sexton’s best skills is his ability to get to the rim, and he had no trouble doing that in the Cavs’ 121-118 win Monday over the Hawks. Sexton scored a team-high 25 points as he helped Cleveland extend its winning streak to three games. This win marks the Cavs’ longest winning streak of the season.

For Sexton, his performance against the Hawks showed how he’s grown in playing at his pace.

“I felt like I had the drive, I had the shot,” Sexton said. “So I pretty much just played my game and play at a pace that I knew I’m really good at playing, and I made sure they didn’t speed me up or anything like that.”

A second-year guard, Sexton has shown improvement this season in his decision making, one of his most glaring weaknesses. Sexton tallied three assists, and he finished with only two turnovers.

On the play shown below, Sexton made a good bounce pass ahead to Matthew Dellavedova, who set up Cedi Osman for the bucket.

Sexton is still in his early 20s, and he’ll be turning 21 on Jan. 4. Guard is arguably the hardest position to excel at in the NBA, with the learning curve steep. Young players have to learn the medley of different ways NBA teams defend, and they also have to learn how they’ll be defended based on their skill set.

Sexton said the Hawks tried different defensive coverages on him, but through it all he maintained his rhythm and made sure to get to the spots where he’s comfortable scoring the ball.

With Jordan Clarkson being traded to the Utah Jazz shortly before the game, Sexton acknowledged how it was different playing without him. Clarkson was the Cavs’ third-leading scorer, averaging 14.6 points per game.

Sexton was a key player in making up for Clarkson’s scoring, as he attacked the basket relentlessly.

According to stats, Sexton leads the Cavs in drives (12.6). He also leads the team in points scored on drives with 7.7.

Sexton established his rhythm in the first quarter, when he played all 12 minutes. He scored 11 of his points in the first quarter. He played 36 minutes total, his second-highest of the season.

“Glad he met the challenge,” coach John Beilein said of Sexton attacking in one-on-one situations. “He made a huge 15-footer for (us) when we need him to do that.”

Beilein said he challenged Sexton to guard Hawks star guard Trae Young on some possessions. Young scored 30 points, and he came into the game averaging 29.0 points per game.

“He (Young) was in a rhythm and we wanted to take him out of the rhythm,” Beilein said. “And Collin (Sexton) did a good job at that end of the floor, which is really an area that’s improving for Collin.”

This season Sexton has posted a defensive rating of 115.5, which is better than his 2018-19 rookie season of 118.1.

As the Cavs’ leading scorer, Sexton is going to get his points. He ranks sixth among second-year players in points per game.

His development as a passer is necessary, but it’s likely he won’t ever be a pure floor general. That’s OK, though. As one of their core young players, Sexton just needs to be himself.

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