CLEVELAND, OH – Thanks to a 42-point effort from Collin Sexton followed up by a breakout performance by newly acquired center Jarrett Allen, the Cleveland Cavaliers sweep the much-hyped ‘Big Three” of the Brooklyn Nets, and put the rest of the NBA on notice in their 147-135 2OT and 125-113 back-to-back wins.
Brooklyn, who recently acquired NBA MVP and All-Star guard James Harden from the Houston Rockets in a four-team blockbuster trade—in which the Cavaliers landed the forementioned Allen and forward Taurean Prince—played his first game alongside fellow All-Stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant down at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
Harden would score 21 points, have 12 assists and grab 10 rebounds in his first game with rookie head coach Steve Nash’s ‘Big Three” while Durant would add 38 points, eight assists and 12 rebounds and Irving would add 37 points in his first game back from a “personal pause”, but it was third-year guard Sexton who stole the show in outdueling the Cavs’ former 2016 NBA Finals hero.
Sexton, wearing Irving’s old number in Cleveland, went 16-of-29 from the field, including going 5-11 from three-point range in 38 minutes in what was a thrilling back-and-forth double overtime duel between the two guards.
If Sexton was the star of Game 1, then Allen was certainly the star in the second game.
Allen, a 6’11-248-pound center from Texas, was one of the two players—along with the forementioned Prince—shipped to Cleveland for Harden. And thanks to 19-point, 11-rebound double-double in his first game as a Cavalier, Cleveland may have found their big man of the future.
While the Cavs have both Kevin Love and Andre Drummond under contract, as I mentioned on a recent Facebook thread, the Cavs may be ready to flip Love for a combination of draft picks and get his $31.9 salary off their books. And despite picking up Drummond’s player option of $28.7 million, there is no guarantee that he signs a long-term extension.
That in addition to Cleveland signing Larry Nance Jr. to a four-year $44 million deal, drafting the forementioned Sexton, Darius Garland, Issac Okoro, Cedi Osman, landing Allen and Prince, and the Cavs appear to be assembling a young nucleus to build around for the future, with the likelihood of both/or Love and Drummond not being in the Cavs plans.
Scoring back-to-back wins over a Nets team with NBA title aspirations and arguably three of the top players in Harden, Irving and Durant unarguably sends shockwaves throughout the league that the Cavaliers have more than moved on from LeBron James and appear quite capable of being a contender in the East.
Now that they have gotten the attention of the rest of the NBA, they will have to learn and adjust quickly for when teams start gunning for them, as opposed to the other way around.