Collin Sexton was too much for the new-look Brooklyn Nets to handle.
Led by Sexton's career-high 42 points, the Cleveland Cavaliers took down the Nets in Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant's first game as teammates, winning by a final score of 147-135 in a double overtime thriller.
Each member of Brooklyn's Big Three produced, with Durant pouring in 38 points, Irving scoring 37 points and Harden recording another triple-double with 21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, but it wasn't enough.
For more on the game, here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
1. A new look for the new-look Nets
Nets head coach Steve Nash decided to switch things by starting Jeff Green alongside Irving, Harden, Durant and DeAndre Jordan instead of Joe Harris.
Green isn't the shooter that Harris is, but he gives the Nets more defensive versatility in the frontcourt with his ability to guard forwards and some centres.
It'll be interesting to see if Nash sticks with Green or moves Harris back into the starting lineup in the weeks to come.
2. Welcome back, Kyrie
Irving got off to a slow start with back-to-back turnovers to open the game, but his first basket was a thing of beauty.
Kyrie is BACK 🔥 pic.twitter.com/aSMkOvTUff- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 21, 2021
3. Between a rock and a hard place
It didn't take Harden, Durant and Irving long to force the Cavaliers to make an impossible decision. Midway through the first quarter, Harden picked off a pass from Andre Drummond and immediately pushed the ball in transition. On his left was Irving. On his right was Durant.
The Cavaliers had only two defenders back. Cedi Osman picked up Durant, leaving Sexton to cover Harden and Irving.
The result? An uncontested layup for Irving.
There was another possession in the first half that caught my eye for similar reasons.
The Cavaliers fell back into a zone following a made basket from Taurean Prince. Durant drew the attention of two defenders when he received the ball on the right wing and Isaac Okoro was glued to Harden on the opposite side of the court.
With someone covering Harris in the corner and Jordan underneath the basket, that left Irving all alone at the free-throw line.
The Nets have a lot to figure out when it comes to getting Harden, Durant and Irving on the same page, but those possessions go to show how much of a hard time teams are going to have matching up with them. At least one of them should always have an advantage.
4. Sexton has no fear
He might not have been able to stop Harden and Irving in transition, but Sexton came up with an impressive block on Durant in the open court in the first half.
COLLIN. SEXTON. 😤 #BeTheFight pic.twitter.com/IDtThSQFHF- Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) January 21, 2021
5. This Cavaliers defence is no joke
The Cavaliers quietly entered this game with the second-best defensive rating in the league, trailing only the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. One of the pillars of their defence in the early going has been their ability to force turnovers. According to NBA.com, teams have turned the ball over on 18.7 percent of their possessions against the Cavaliers, the highest rate in the league.
Sure enough, turnovers were a story for the Nets.
The Nets shot 10-for-18 from the field in the opening quarter, but they found themselves trailing 28-23 because they coughed the ball up seven times. The Nets committed three more turnovers in the second quarter, bringing their total up to 10 in the first half.
The Cavaliers capitalized on those opportunities, turning Brooklyn's 10 turnovers into 16 points.
6. The Nets defence is a work in progress
Of greater concern for the Nets, they couldn't slow down the Cavaliers for most of the game.
While the Cavaliers have been one of the best defensive teams in the league, they've been the worst offensive team in the league, averaging 100.8 points per 100 possessions.
Through three quarters of play, the Cavaliers put up 87 points on 49.3 percent shooting from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point range. Osman led the way for Cleveland going into the fourth with a game-high 23 points, followed by Sexton (17) and Drummond (12). Jarrett Allen also gave the Cavaliers a boost off the bench, as did Prince.
And yet, despite the turnovers and sometimes porous defence, this game went down to the wire.
7. It's Showtime
Brooklyn's Big Three came alive when it mattered the most.
It started in the fourth quarter, when Durant scored 11 of his 38 points. He set the tone early with a chasedown block, followed by a four-point play in the opening minutes of the frame.
KD block into a 4-pt play- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 21, 2021
Too good 😤 pic.twitter.com/5GXWrycTDZ
Irving also got going in the fourth with 10 of his 37 points, as did Harden with seven of his 21 points and four of his 12 assists.
Joe with the HUSTLE pic.twitter.com/W4dcnuOdma- Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 21, 2021
The three of them helped the Nets outscore the Cavaliers 35-26 in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
8. Put some respect on Sexton's name
The Nets took an early lead in the first overtime, but Sexton came up clutch to force a second overtime period.
First, he scored on a putback to make it a one-point game with 10.7 seconds to play. Following a couple of free throws from Durant to make it a three-point game again, he then drained a tough 3-pointer over Irving with 1.2 seconds remaining to tie it up at 127 to force a second overtime.
Collin Sexton forces DOUBLE OT 🔥 pic.twitter.com/I48gS3GExu- SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 21, 2021
Sexton kept his foot on the gas in the second overtime, scoring 15 of Cleveland's 20 points. He was almost perfect by going 5-for-6 from the field and 4-for-5 from 3-point range.
Collin Sexton is on FIRE! ♨️#Crunchtime pic.twitter.com/eZl1uGidJO- NBA TV (@NBATV) January 21, 2021
At one point, Sexton had scored 20 straight points for the Cavaliers in the two overtimes. The Nets had absolutely no answer for him down the stretch.
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