Sacramento • Since returning from injury, Collin Sexton has had several games in which he’s gone on a quick scoring outburst, racking up five, six, seven points within minutes of getting onto the court.
There are some occasional bad moments as a result — see his performance Wednesday vs. the Warriors — but he also has the potential to make some momentum-swinging plays.
How deliberate is that? Very.
“Just trying to impact the game right away,” Sexton said when asked about the trend. “I feel like like when I’m out there, I can impact either on defense or even on offense just by changing the pace. So whenever I’m out there, that’s all I’m thinking about — trying to change it.”
He’s shown a preternatural ability to beat guys one-on-one — ranking as one of the league’s most effective scorers in terms of points per possession off of isolation plays.
But the guard is also still learning to strike the right balance between manipulating a defense to get his vs. manipulating a defense to get his teammates involved.
“Pretty much just finding a gap in the defense and trying to pick and choose,” he explained. “Sometimes I might just drive — not just to look for my shot but also my teammates, and sometimes it opens up for me. So I pretty much just try to pick and choose my spots.
Circled on the calendar?
Most NBA players won’t concede that they get revved up for certain games or matchups, even if they definitely do. One game at a time and all that.
Even though the Warriors were missing the likes of Steph and Klay and Andrew Wiggins on Wednesday, Golden State is still a measuring stick team.
For instance, does Jordan Clarkson hang onto any bad energy for them, given that they once dismantled the Cavaliers team he was on in the NBA Finals? He wasn’t taking the bait.
How about Malik Beasley, then? Given that Curry and Thompson are frequently referred to as two of the NBA’s best shooters of all time, does that amp up the sharp-shooting Beasley to try and show off against them?
“Nah, I don’t like to compare my game to anybody’s game,” he said. “I like to take other people’s games and try to transform them into my game, but I’ll never compare — I’m my own person. But it is special to be able to play with the best shooters in league and to go against them.”
The loss in San Antonio was an ugly one. The Spurs are among the worst offenses in the league, but they pretty much decimated Utah’s defense.
Kelly Olynyk hadn’t yet made his return to action in that contest, but he still had a few thoughts about what went wrong.
“I mean, we’re just not playing cohesive as a unit on that end of the floor. We’re all on our own — we need to help each other a little more, give each other more support defensively,” Olynyk said. “It’s hard; in this league, guys are too talented, too good to [let them] play one-on-one all night. You need to show help, you need to rotate, be on a string, be a unit. And if you’re not, it’s gonna be a long night.”
Meanwhile, Beasley, who is not known as a great defender, but who at least acknowledges he can make progress, noted that he’d gone to rookie shot-blocker extraordinaire Walker Kessler and vowed to do more to help him.
“Sometimes if Walker’s in the paint, he doesn’t know if a smaller guard has his back. That’s what I told him today: ‘I’m gonna have your back from here on out,” Beasley said at Wednesday’s shootaround. “‘Go block every shot — I got your back. If somebody scores in the corner, it’s not on both of us; we gotta work together as teammates, and I gotta have your back.’ That’s the main thing, having each other’s backs.”
Speaking of Kessler …
Plenty of teammates had good things to say about the job the rookie out of Auburn did in taking on a bigger role during those four games Olynyk was out.
Coach Will Hardy praised him too, not just for the statistical impact he’s having, but also for the progress he’s making on the mental side of things.
“He continues to understand how hard it is in the NBA and how unforgiving the NBA can be at times. Being a half-second late when you’re somebody that’s protecting the rim, you can end up getting dunked on. He’s still managing the moments of imperfection,” Hardy said. “Walker is a perfectionist, he’s very, very hard on himself, and that’s a huge reason why he is the player that he is and that why he’s in the NBA.
“But you can’t ride that roller coaster of emotions, especially during one game. It’s just too hard,” he added. “So I think he’s doing a better job of recognizing that not every possession is going to be a masterpiece and that he has to continue to move on mentally to what’s coming next.”
Kudos from Kerr
In his pregame media availability, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked about the factors playing into this season’s offensive explosion. His response about coaches constantly finding new ways to exploit matchups and optimize their own players included some plaudits for his Jazz counterpart.
“A lot of innovation. … Even though most teams are running spread offenses, I think a lot of coaches are running really good stuff,” Kerr said. “Will Hardy runs great stuff — really deceptive ATOs, and pick-and-pop stuff with some wrinkles that that are generating 3-point shots.”