Cavs’ Sexton outplays Irving, shreds Nets in double OT

CLEVELAND (AP) — Kevin Durant scooped up the box score on the table in front of him and quickly scanned the statistics next to Collin Sexton’s name to make sure he was being accurate.

There they were: 42 points, 15 coming in the second overtime when Cleveland’s guard drained four 3-pointers.

“He made shots,” said Durant, who also had a breakaway dunk stopped by Sexton.

Outplaying Kyrie Irving, the player with whom he’ll forever be linked, Sexton outscored Brooklyn by himself in the second OT and led the Cavaliers to a 147-135 win over the Nets, who will need some time to get their three superstars aligned.

Sexton was back after missing five games with a sprained ankle and he outshined Irving, Durant and James Harden, Brooklyn’s heralded “Big 3” who combined for 96 points in their first game together since the Nets pulled off the stunning trade that tilted the East Conference toward one of New York’s boroughs.

But with all eyes on the new-look Nets, Sexton stole the spotlight.

The third-year guard, who has continued to improve his shot and all-around game, drained a game-tying 3-pointer in Irving’s face at the end of overtime, then scored Cleveland’s first 15 points in the second OT before feeding new teammate Taurean Prince for a 3-pointer to cap a 9-0 run.

Following the game, Sexton’s teammates doused him with water in the locker room.

They didn’t miss. He hardly did either.

“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,” Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Not everybody in our league has the courage to do what he did tonight.”

Cleveland outscored Brooklyn 20-8 in the second overtime.

“I don’t know many teams that could put up 20 points in five minutes, but Collin got hot,” said Irving, who returned after missing seven games for personal reasons. “I give the young fellow credit, and I give that whole Cleveland team credit: They came to play.”

Especially Sexton, who was just excited to be back on the floor after getting hurt. Sexton didn’t start well, missing his first four 3-pointers. But urged by his teammates and coaches, Sexton kept firing away and finally found his mark.

After he knocked down his fourth 3 in the second OT, some of his Cavs teammates were wrestling each other to the floor on the bench in celebration.

“He played out of his mind,” Cavs forward Cedi Osman said. “It was amazing.”

To do it with Irving back in Cleveland made it that much sweeter.

When the Cavs traded Irving to Boston after the 2017 season, the draft pick they got in return was used to take Sexton, a lightning-quick guard from Alabama who came into the league with a suspect jump shot and questions about whether he was worthy of being a lottery pick.

But Sexton’s game has grown, and the Cavs believe he and Darius Garland, who is expected back later this week after being slowed by a shoulder sprain, give them a young backcourt to build around for the future.

It’s not only that Sexton came to Cleveland as a result of the Irving trade. He also wears No. 2 like Irving, and has shown an ability to take over games the way Irving once did for the Cavs.

“I definitely accepted the challenge,” Sexton said of his matchup with Irving. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy because it’s Kyrie.”

Nicknamed “Young Bull” since college, Sexton also showed no fear while challenging Durant in the first quarter.

Brooklyn’s star got out front on a break, and was loading up to deliver a dunk when Sexton cut in front of him and swiped the ball.

“I was anticipating him trying to dunk on me,” Sexton said. “I was definitely going to jump with him. I timed it pretty well.”

He was on time all night.

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