I was in attendance in Cleveland last night as the Hornets took on the Cavaliers, taking a specific look at the matchup between the young guards. Here are my takeaways from the 100-98 Cavs win.
Rozier is money from three
Terry Rozier nearly dragged the Hornets—the rest of whom shot a tepid 39% from the field and 27% from behind the arc—to a win with his hot shooting in the fourth quarter. Rozier hit five threes in the fourth quarter, including four in the last two minutes.
It quickly became obvious what the Hornets strategy was for mounting the comeback, and it seemed that it would work when Collin Sexton dribbled the ball off his foot with less than 20 seconds remaining. Charlotte ran the same play they’d executed on the last three trips down the floor, and got the shot they wanted. Unfortunately it didn’t fall this time. That being said, the last shot shouldn’t diminish what was a career game for Rozier.
Devonte’ Graham continues to utilize his playmaking ability
Devonte’ Graham showed his ability to make an impact when his shots aren’t falling. Going just 3-16 from the field and 2-9 from three, Graham looked to his teammates and tallied nine assists. His ability to find the open man and give him the best opportunity to score played big role in the comeback push in the fourth quarter.
Graham confidently quarterbacking the offense allowed Rozier to get hot on wide open catch-and-shoot threes. Sometimes you just gotta ride the hot hand, but getting the ball into those hot hands is a skill that often gets overlooked.
Sexton has a great first step
Perhaps Collin Sexton’s strongest weapon is his speed. His first step off the dribble had the Charlotte defenders on their heels all night. Early on the Hornets played him tight but were struggling to keep up with him as he drove to the basket.
As the game wore on, defenders stepped back and gave themselves some space to stay in front of him. This left Sexton with enough space to employ his pull-up shooting, creating a “pick your poison” scenario the Hornets struggled to answer.
Sexton has a lot of potential, and if he can continue to develop his game, that explosiveness could make him even better going forward.
Garland showed good decision making
Darius Garland was the Cavs’ Graham tonight, meaning he was a great facilitator. Garland took a pass-first approach to the game, which allowed the Cavaliers to spread the ball and have four players in double-digit scoring.
Garland tallied six assists on the night, with only three turnovers. Playing smart and controlling the ball allowed his teammates to shine and ultimately get the win. Finding a way to keep up the level of decision making while getting into the scoring column will be key to success going forward for both him and the team.
Ultimately, tonight’s matchup was between two teams each with two young guards with tons to look forward to. Both of these duos have the potential to lead their teams to success in the future, given the chance to grow. This game on paper wasn’t the most alluring matchup, but the backcourts on display could be part of a new wave of NBA guard play. All four of these players are ones to keep an eye on over the next few seasons.