Caris LeVert Revisits 51-Point Game With YES Network's Michael Grady
Big night in Boston included 37 points in fourth quarter and OT of comeback win
This week, YES Network’s Michael Grady caught up with Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert for a Nets edition of “YES We’re Here” that preceded the broadcast of Vince Carter’s big 42-point game in Toronto against his former team back on Jan. 8, 2006.
With the NBA on hiatus, LeVert has been living a status quo that seems routine across the league: keeping up on his conditioning as best he can with bike and weight workouts while mixing in some virtual competition: NBA2K, Madden, FIFA.
In addition, Grady and LeVert took time to revisit a more recent scoring explosion — LeVert’s 51-point game in Boston on March 3. On the final night of a four-game road trip, LeVert led the Nets back from 21 points down to a 129-120 overtime win. He shot 17-of-26 and 5-of-10 from 3-point range, scoring 26 points in the fourth quarter — 18 in the final 4:05 of regulation — and another 11 in overtime.
It was part of a hot stretch of basketball for LeVert, who had returned to action in early January after missing two months with a thumb injury. Beginning Feb. 3, he averaged 24.1 points while shooting 41.3 percent from 3-point range, along with 5.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game over 16 games up until the season was suspended.
Along the way, he joined Kyrie Irving, Vince Carter, and Stephon Marbury as the only players to register both a 50-point game and a triple-double as a Net.
“Mine was in the span of a week,” said LeVert of the two accomplishments, “so I was playing really good basketball at the time, and we were winning games as well, so it was definitely a good time.”
Against the Celtics, LeVert had gotten off to a fast start, scoring 14 in the first half before a quiet third quarter. But down the stretch, he came alive.
“I feel like in the first quarter everybody’s kind of getting their feet wet a little bit, and then in the fourth quarter, everybody’s locked in,” LeVert told Grady. “You score buckets in the fourth quarter, it’s that much harder than the first quarter. Everybody’s kind of feeling the game out when the game first starts, but in the fourth everybody wants to win and they feel like every possession matters.”
LeVert recalled it as one of his two most memorable NBA games, along with Game 1 of the playoffs last season, when he scored 23 points in the Nets’ win in Philadelphia.
“It was a different type of feeling,” said LeVert. “I’ve never scored that many points before; middle school, high school, AAU, nothing. I had never really been in that type of zone before, but it was extremely fun and it felt good to get the win too.”
The Nets were still down by 13 midway through the fourth quarter before LeVert drained three consecutive 3-pointers to make it a 104-100 game with 2:41 remaining. But they traded baskets with the Celtics over the next two-plus minutes and were still down five with 10 seconds to go.
“I was trying to get a stop because we were still down,” said LeVert. “We couldn’t really get a stop. They were scoring too, that’s what people don’t realize. I would hit a three and they would hit a three. We hit a three, they would get an and-1. We didn’t really stop them too much. And then we finally got a stop and hit another three, and I’m like, ‘oh, we’ve got a shot at this.’”
What happened next falls into the highly improbable category. DeAndre Jordan’s dunk cut it to three with 6.7 seconds left, and on the Boston inbound, Rodions Kurucs tied up Kemba Walker to force a jump ball. The Nets won the tip and called a timeout with 1.4 seconds left, trailing 118-115.
The Nets naturally went to LeVert on the inbounds for the final shot, and the Celtics wisely sent three players at him outside the 3-point line. But in the crowd of bodies and waving arms, LeVert drew a foul and went to the line for three shots. He said it was the first time he’d ever been in that position, but he had no problem draining all three shots to force overtime.
“We knew it was going be tough, especially when we came out and then the way that they were guarding us,” said LeVert. “If you watch the play they were just standing at the 3-point line and we were down three so we needed a three, so we knew it was going be tough to even get the ball in to get a shot off. I think I started under the basket and I was supposed to come off a screen to the top and catch and shoot. But there was like three guys there as soon as I caught it.
“As I went up for a shot, I saw, I think it was (Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot), wide open in the middle and I was going hit TLC. As I’m going up to pass, somebody — I think it was Marcus Smart — grabbed my arm, so I just kind of went up for a shot. I’m like, I know he didn’t just grab my arm like that? And they called it. At first I didn’t think they were going call it, but I guess it was super blatant. Especially when I watched it on the replay; I’m like, that was very blatant. I feel like they had to.”
In the overtime, LeVert quickly gave the Nets an eight-point lead. He ended up outscoring the Celtics 11-2 in the extra period, scoring all of Brooklyn’s points.
“It was super-special,” said LeVert. “I think especially for fans and people around the world to see the Nets, because I believe it was on TNT as well. We don’t really get a lot of those games. It was huge for us to play on national television and beat a good team like that on the road. It was a good night for a lot of different things.”
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