Caris LeVert Looks Right on Schedule with Career High and Game-Winner for Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets guard notches career high with 28 points after scoring 15 in fourth
Two games into the 2018-19 season, the Caris LeVert breakout that his Brooklyn Nets teammates spent the last month projecting seems right on schedule.
In the Nets' home opener on Friday night at Barclays Center, LeVert added the one piece missing from an otherwise scintillating season debut two nights earlier, delivering the game-winning shot with a second to go in a 107-105 win over the New York Knicks.
It was a shot with meaning. It put an end to the four-game slide the Nets had been on against their crosstown rivals. It gave the Nets a win in a down-to-the-wire game, the kind that had eluded them against the Pistons on Wednesday and too many times last season. And it gave LeVert a quick shot of redemption after he had lost the ball on the final possession in Detroit.
"He said after the game, he said, 'coach, I owed you one.' From the Detroit game," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. "That game-winner, that was a heck of a finish at the end."
It was LeVert's play to make all the way. The Nets came out of a timeout with 15.9 seconds to go after Enes Kanter's three-point play had tied the game. They gave the ball to LeVert and spread the floor as he sized up his former Michigan teammate Tim Hardaway Jr. out beyond the top of the key.
"What we wanted was to get that last shot," said Atkinson. "We didn't want to run a play and risk a turnover, because they're a great pressure team. We wanted to make sure we got the last shot. We didn't want to give them a chance. We left it with one second on the clock, which is OK. Prefer to go to zero. But again, wanted to put it in his hands. What does he do? He can really drive the ball. Detroit we tried to do the same thing. Get him isolated and drive the ball to the basket."
LeVert went down the right side of the lane, and he still had Hardaway on his left shoulder as he left the floor. But that gave him some space as well as he reached out to bank the ball home.
"I tried to wipe Detroit out of my mind and just move on from it," said LeVert. "Kenny had a lot of confidence in me to go back to me tonight, and I just wanted to come through."
The shot capped a 15-point fourth quarter for LeVert and gave him a career-high 28 points to go with six rebounds and five assists. That followed Wednesday night's 27 points, four assists and four rebounds. Over the first two games of the season, LeVert is shooting 18-for-33 — 54.5 percent from the field. And with his ability to beat defenses into the lane, he's drawing fouls. LeVert made 10-of-11 free throws against the Knicks and is 17-of-19 from the line over the first two games.
"Just taking my time," said LeVert. "Picking my spots. Knowing I don't have to go every single time I get it. Get the mismatch. Play well off the ball. I've got a lot of great players on the team playing with me. It's easy when guys are unselfish and playing with me like that."
The game-winner wasn't LeVert's first big crunch-time shot on Friday night. With the game tied at 100 at the two-minute mark, he had free space on the left wing, but instead of driving, stepped back to knock down his second 3-pointer of the quarter. Forty-five seconds later, with the Nets up 103-102, LeVert made both shots from the line for a 105-102 lead.
"He's growing. He's maturing. You just feel it," said Atkinson. "You can feel it during the game. When the guy starts to make another jump to be an even better player, the emotional part is part of it. The leadership part. That was huge."
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