LeVert comes alive in Nets’ victory over Suns

A+

Final: 02/03/2020

W 119 97

The Nets have been waiting for Caris LeVert to break out, and a return to the starting lineup against Phoenix ended up being the perfect opportunity. 

In his best all-around performance since his return from injury, LeVert matched his career-high with 29 points and seven assists in 32 minutes to lead the Nets over the Suns on Monday. 

Powered by five players in double-digits, it was the third quarter when the Nets truly hit their stride. Accompanying that effort was a strong defensive execution for Brooklyn against one of the team’s hottest shooters in Booker. 

After holding a three-point lead at halftime, the Nets out-scored Phoenix 35-21 in the third quarter and 64-45 in the second half. Brooklyn had difficulties expanding its lead into double digits, but an extended 19-2 run in the third quarter brought a 18-point lead, and the team never looked back, growing its advantage to as large as 26.

LeVert was a spark early on, from his first-quarter-ending buzzer-beater all the way to his last points. He looked confident on the floor, attacking and finishing in the lane rather than just settling for three-pointers. 

With his aggression, the Nets finished with a 54-42 advantage in points in the paint. Brooklyn also found success from three, going 15-34 in a game it needed to find a shooting stroke. 

Both Taurean Prince and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot stepped up in the void of Kyrie Irving’s offensive production. Irving will be out at least a week with a sprained right knee, but the two draining three three-pointers apiece kept the momentum, especially from TLC off the bench.

Brooklyn’s defense was also on full display, holding the Suns to 97 points and Booker to just 11 on 3-15 shooting. After Phoenix blew out the Nets earlier this season, the Nets returned the favor on their home court. 

Coming off a late loss to the Wizards, this is the bounce-back performance from LeVert that Brooklyn needed. In a week that holds opportunity abound for Brooklyn, the Nets will have a chance to record a fourth straight home victory when the Warriors come to Brooklyn on Wednesday. 

Caris LeVert

A+

The stats: 29 PTS, 10-20 FG, 2-4 3PT, 7-7 FT, 3 REB, 7 AST, 2 STL, 5 TO, 32 MIN

Welcome back, Caris. 

LeVert has struggled to hit his stride since his thumb surgery, but a return to the starting lineup seemed to do the trick. While he made a few threes, his finishes in the paint were his bread and butter. 

After the game, Kenny Atkinson said he needed to leave LeVert in the game longer to give him more of a leash. The result? Beyond defending Booker, LeVert looked as comfortable and confident as we have seen him this season, dishing and creating.

Through LeVert, the Nets showed chemistry. He will have to work on taking better care of the ball, but now the next step will be another ‘C’ — consistency. 

Joe Harris

A

The stats: 16 PTS, 7-13 FG, 2-5 3FG, 4 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 TO, 28 MIN

Joe Harris came out firing against the Suns, looking ready to defend his three-point crown — which, by the way, he announced he will be doing in Chicago (!). 

Besides that excitement, Harris showed good willingness early to shoot the ball. He gave Brooklyn some early momentum, and he reached double-digits in field goal attempts — which he should be doing more often. 

The Nets appreciated his hot hand, which fans hope he will have again during All-Star Weekend. 

Taurean Prince

A-

The stats: 15 PTS, 5-10 FG, 3-6 3PT, 2-2 FT, 6 REB, 1 STL, 2 TO, 30 MIN

Taurean Prince had one of Brooklyn’s hot hands in the third quarter, and it came at a great time. His three-pointers were timely and he showed a sense of urgency. 

In a search for team consistency, Prince will be another piece the Nets look to. If he can continue to pull behind the arc, he gives Brooklyn a weapon they can use daily. 

Spencer Dinwiddie

B+

The stats: 14 PTS, 4-12 FG, 1-1 3PT, 5-6 FT, 3 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 3 TO, 31 MIN

Dinwiddie did not have his best offensive performance against the Suns, but he did not have to. With LeVert executing, Dinwiddie fell in line in the starting lineup by facilitating rather than firing from distance (he attempted just one three — and made it). 

The Nets are better when Dinwiddie does not have to play hero ball, and it showed behind a strong defensive showing against the Suns. Dinwiddie shows great comfort alongside LeVert, and it will be fun to see the two continue in the starting lineup. 

Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot

A-

The stats: 13 PTS, 4-7 FG, 3-4 3PT, 2-3 FT, 3 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 25 MIN

In the last game of his 10-day contract, TLC showed that he wants to be signed. His shooting performance was huge off the bench, giving Brooklyn a reliable hand with the starters sidelined. 

The question is, did he do enough for Brooklyn to keep him around? TLC left it all out on the court on Monday and contributed to the victory. We will see what the Nets decide, but there is little more the team could have asked of him in that performance. 

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