Those performances garnered high praise from both Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.
The duo of Sexton and Garland combined for 43 points, with Garland dishing out eight assists and Sexton adding a trio of rebounds.
Sexton was especially clutch in the fourth quarter, scoring nine of his 25 total points in the final frame.
That scoring was badly needed after the Nuggets were able to slice a 17-point deficit down to two with under eight minutes left in the game.
Love saw the two performances as a major step forward in the development of his two young teammates.
“If they can do that on the road against a team that is at the top two in the West, it’s really great to see that,” Love told Cleveland.com. “It’s a confidence-builder that those two guys can do that. Heading into the future, it can only mean good things.”
Pointing out the contributions of Garland, Love cited the fact that the rookie effectively missed his only college campaign, playing in just five contests.
“Darius has been the guy. He hit some big shots and he’s confident,” Love said. “I’m trying to tell him, ‘Every time they give you that shot you have to shoot it.’ And he’s getting in the lane, slowing down, finally making decisions and finally getting into a great rhythm. Look, he didn’t play any basketball last year. This is really his, if you look at it, almost his college season. This has been great for him. Feel like he’s finally settling in. He hit big shots. That’s where we see him trending and where we see him going.”
In Love’s postgame remarks, he also indicated what he had said to Garland in the immediate aftermath of the victory.
“Just told him I was really proud of him,” Love said. “He’s just been getting better in those moments. He really has a chance to be a special player. Tonight he showed that.”
Thompson also offered effusive praise for both Sexton and Garland, noting that the steps being taken by both players should be seen as progress.
“With them growing from every game, that’s what you want at the end of the day, especially from a rookie and a second-year player,” Thompson said. “You want them to get better as the season progresses and that’s what they’re showing. They’re playing with a lot of confidence right now. That’s the key. Going out there, feeling good and knowing they’re good enough to play in this league and they’re good enough to start in our league, so just go out and show it every night. That’s what they did tonight.”
Thompson also zeroed in on Garland as a key building block for the Cavaliers during a postgame interview on Fox Sports Ohio.
“You’re the future point guard of this franchise,” Thompson said of his message to Garland. “You’re the head of the snake of this franchise for a long time so you have to come and be ready. Put your chest on the line and make shots. Really want to say something else, but it’s not for TV.”
Luckily, Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor was able to get the advice that Thompson deemed not fit for television.
“You gotta let your nuts hang,” Thompson told Garland, according to Fedor.
On the season, the Cavaliers and Nuggets are two teams going in different directions. Cleveland is struggling with a 12-27 mark, while Denver holds a 26-12 record, good for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
Still, it was fun to watch the Cavs best one of the league’s top teams, if only for a night.
While there are still plenty of growing pains likely ahead for Sexton and Garland, it’s clear that they have the potential to develop into the standouts the Cavs need.