SAN ANTONIO — In the opening minute of the second half against the San Antonio Spurs, Collin Sexton swiped at the ball, helping to force a turnover and was out in front of a break. There was no one near him, he had plenty of room, he’d been waiting for a chance to do something he’d been practicing and this was the perfect opportunity.

He bounced the ball hard onto the court, effectively giving himself an alley-oop pass, and when he caught the ball, he did a reverse 360 and dunked.

The problem was the Utah Jazz were leading by just six points, and anything reckless was certain to bring the ire of head coach Will Hardy.

“You gotta live on the edge sometimes,” Sexton said with a laugh. “Am I gonna be in trouble?”

The rest of the team all stood up and cheered for Sexton and didn’t sit down or stop talking about the play until two possessions later. But there was one person on the bench that remained seated and although he locked eyes with Sexton, he also couldn’t help but smile.

“So many bad words,” Hardy said through a smirk. “Collin is truly amazing to me. I don’t understand why … I think we were up like four with like 20 minutes left in the game. I don’t know what on earth would make him try that. I also think the fact that he’s 6-foot-1 and pulled that off is wild. The look on his face when he landed indicated that he thought it was both awesome and that he was kind of in trouble.”

Jazz 130, Spurs 118: Inside the numbers

Well it was definitely awesome, but Hardy is exaggerating a bit about Sexton being in trouble. There are far more pressing things to worry about than a made dunk, especially since the Jazz came away with a 130-118 win over the Spurs.

Hardy coaches Sexton probably harder than anyone else on the team, but he does so because he really cares about Sexton and sees that he is able to adapt and change his game.

Sexton’s recent success is proof that the guard can still improve and grow even in his sixth NBA season. He’s been working diligently with assistant coaches Evan Bradds and Scott Morrison on stripping down the pick-and-roll game so that Sexton can slow his game down and recognize the different reads he can make.

“Whether to shoot or drive or even just change direction,” Sexton said. “That’s why I’m in the game. To help set those guys up.”

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His work has included a lot of film study but also physical work and Sexton has put in a lot of time. After averaging just 2.9 assists all of last season, Sexton has slowly become more and more of a reliable distributor. Heading into Tuesday’s game he was averaging 4.2 assists in the month of December and he dished out six dimes in the win over the Spurs.

“He’s just sort of in a groove right now,” Hardy said. “I think the best thing for me is that he’s had a couple of games where he’s made a lot of good decisions and he’s still scored a lot of points and I think it’s just showing him that though he has a scoring mindset, you don’t have to think ‘score’ on every play to score a lot of points in this league.”

In fact, Sexton’s seen more opportunities to score and better opportunities on nights when he is trying to make decisions that involve others. It could be a flare screen after a handoff or a wraparound drive to find another player driving. These are parts of Sexton’s game now that force defenders to expect him to pass.

“Teams are starting to respect his playmaking a little bit more,” Hardy said. “It’s a credit to the staff and it’s a lot of credit to Collin because I think he’s maturing as a person and for sure as a player.”

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