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A different Cavaliers team has emerged on the other side of the All-Star Break – and they are fun to watch.
Over the last two weeks, the Wine & Gold have reversed some negative trends and have now won four of their last five – including Wednesday night’s wire-to-wire 108-94 victory over the Sixers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
The Cavaliers didn’t require any of the histrionics from Monday’s heart-stopping comeback win – jumping on the Sixers right out of the gate, building up a 20-point lead and snuffing any potential rally in the final period.
Philly was without Ben Simmons – who’s expected to miss significant time with a back injury – and their other All-Star, center Joel Embiid, left the game in the second quarter with a left shoulder sprain and didn’t return.
The Cavaliers took full advantage of the shorthanded Sixers – holding them to 40 percent shooting in their seventh straight loss away from the Wells Fargo Center, where they’re a league-best 27-2. The Wine & Gold – after dropping 12 straight home contests before the break – have now won three straight on their home floor.
Collin Sexton barely saw the floor in the fourth quarter and overtime on Monday night, but the Young Bull was back in the ring on Wednesday – leading both squads with 28 points on 9-for-16 shooting, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc and 8-of-9 from the stripe to go with two assists and a pair of steals.
Tristan Thompson – back in the starting lineup with Andre Drummond out Wednesday with a calf injury – notched his 25th double-double of the season, finishing with 14 points and 13 boards, six off the offensive glass, adding two helpers, a steal and blocked shot in the win.
Larry Nance Jr. doubled-up as well, stacking the boxscore in 31 minutes of work off the bench – chipping in with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting to go with a season-high 15 rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Nance Jr. got some help off the bench from an unlikely source in Matthew Dellavedova, who had one of his best showings of the season – finishing with 12 points, going 5-of-5 from the floor, including 2-of-2 from long-range to go with a pair of assists and a steal.
Darius Garland finished with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting and Kevin Love added 13 points, nine boards and six assists rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures.
Little-used sophomore guard Shake Milton led the Sixers with 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Josh Richardson led Philly with eight rebounds as the Wine & Gold dominated on the glass – 49-32 – to take Wednesday’s decision and avoid the season sweep.
Collin Sexton was a walking human highlight reel on Wednesday. He made his defender fall before hitting a jumper in the first quarter, then later in the game, broke out a double-clutch dunk on a fastbreak.
Although the Cavaliers never trailed on Wednesday night, a point of the game in which they might have collapsed early this season went their way against Philly.
The Sixers began chipping away at Cleveland’s lead midway through the third quarter and at the 9:13 mark of the fourth had cut a 20-point deficit to just five, 85-80, on Al Horford’s three-pointer.
But the Cavaliers kept their composure. Tristan Thompson scored four of Cleveland’s next six points to regain the double-digit lead. The Cavs kept it up from there, curbing every Sixers’ potential run and extending the lead back to 15 with under two minutes to play.
29 … consecutive games that Collin Sexton has now tallied double-figures, shooting 47 percent from the floor and 43 percent from beyond the arc.
Over the course of that 29-game stretch, dating back to December 23, the Young Bull has posted 20 games of at least 20 points, including a 30-point outburst on January 4 against Oklahoma City.
Among second-year players, only All-Star starters Luka Doncic and Trae Young have a higher scoring average than Sexton’s 19.7ppg.
Coach J.B. Bickerstaff, on his young squad’s growth …
”I think there’s been a concerted effort to a man to just go out and try to get after it a little bit harder. There is an energy that’s building, and you don’t want to be the one guy that’s not participating in it. So, you see the leadership, you see the young guys, they are pushing one another, they are holding each other accountable. They are having real conversations to fix problems and the environment and culture we are creating is growing and that’s going to be the foundation of it.”
Enjoy the best broadcast calls of the night from Cavaliers Radio Network's Tim Alcorn and 87.7 La Mega's Rafa Hernandez-Brito.
The Cavaliers hit the road for one game before returning to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse for a five-game homestand – traveling to the Big Easy for a Friday night matchup against Zion Williamson and the Pelicans.
The Cavs come home for a Saturday night showdown with the Pacers to close out the month of February. They begin March with four tough contests in Cleveland – welcoming the Jazz, Celtics, Nuggets and Spurs to town.
Following that, the Wine & Gold play 14 of their final 19 games on the road.