Sexton scored 23 points in the loss against Orlando Thursday night — his fourth consecutive game with at least 20 points, matching James, who accomplished that feat two different times during his first season.
Like many youngsters, Sexton experienced early growing pains, sometimes even drawing the ire of teammates and coaches for not making the right play. Through his first 10 games as a pro, Sexton averaged just 10.5 points on 35-of-86 (40.6 percent) shooting. Those early-season struggles led to finger-pointing and eye-rolling from teammates. It also forced head coach Larry Drew’s chat with his players about patience.
That seemed to be Sexton’s turning point.
But then the rook hit a few more potholes, going into a January funk while opponents started exploiting his weaknesses. After a sensational February — his best month as a pro that led to a Rookie of the Month nomination — Sexton has been even better in March. He’s determined to finish the season strong and maybe even get some well-deserved recognition.
“I feel like the next games we have to go out here and play together,” Sexton said. “We just have to give it our all and try to end with some wins. We don’t want to end the season on a losing note. We want to end the season good. Have to make sure we’re grinding and keep pushing.”
In seven games this month, Sexton is averaging 21.3 points on 48.1 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from 3-point range.
During this four-game stretch, he’s averaging 26 points on 54.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc to go with 3.8 assists. That stellar play led to Cavs chairman Dan Gilbert praising his prized first-round pick.
“Remember those noisemakers (and beat writers) attacking the teenager (at the time) during his first few weeks in the NBA? Couldn’t be more proud of Collin,” Gilbert wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “He grinds daily. Character, presence and talent. Kid is the real deal.”
Cavs head coach Larry Drew admitted he wants to see Sexton improve as a passer. That’s one of the next steps in his maturation. Many have urged Sexton to be more vocal. But no one has to push him to score. He led the Cavs in that category Thursday night, trying to pick up the slack on a rare off night for Kevin Love.
Sexton was one of the lone bright spots during a dreary showing. It was the fourth straight game Sexton led Cleveland in scoring. He’s failed to reach double-digits just once in the last 18 games.
Among rookies, Sexton ranks fourth in scoring. No one has more double-figure games, tied with Dallas wunderkind Luka Doncic.
“Collin is a scoring point guard,” Drew said recently. “He likes to score and can score, but sometimes you have to get your other guys rolling. Get the assists up. That’s no secret, that’s not one of his fortes. But he’s getting better. Really happy with where his growth is."
Tough to quibble when he’s hitting rookie marks set by two of the best players in franchise history.