Caris LeVert spent nearly two months recovering from right thumb surgery, and the Brooklyn Nets were able to win without him, at least until recently.
LeVert is expected to return Saturday night and the Nets hope his presence can help them halt a season-high four-game losing streak when they host the Toronto Raptors.
LeVert was injured in a 138-119 loss at the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 10, and the Nets are 12-12 since his last game. They went 9-5 in the first 14 games but after a victory over the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 8, the Nets are 3-7 in the last 10.
During those 10 games, the Nets offense has slipped somewhat. They averaged 108 points on 44.4 percent field goal shooting, including 32.8 percent from 3-point range, in the first 14 games without LeVert but in the last 10 they are averaging 106.0 points, shooting 41.3 percent and hitting 29.2 percent on 3-pointers.
LeVert appeared to clear his final hurdle Wednesday when he was put through a rigorous workout after participating in practice.
“I feel good, my body feels good, so I can’t wait to get out there and help the team.” LeVert told reporters before Thursday’s 123-111 loss at the Dallas Mavericks.
Before getting injured, LeVert was off to a strong start by averaging 16.8 points, but shot just 6 of 23 in his final two games before getting surgery.
Brooklyn has scored over 110 points in each of its last two games, but its defense has allowed over 120 in consecutive games for the first time this season. After dropping a 122-115 overtime decision Monday at the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Nets were outscored 15-7 in the final 6:45 and could not stop the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic on Thursday.
“We didn’t get a stop,” Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie said. “Obviously, that’s what kind of ballooned their lead and we obviously didn’t make enough shots to keep pace.”
It is possible LeVert could slide back into the starting lineup alongside Dinwiddie, who scored 19 points Thursday and is averaging 25.7 points since Kyrie Irving was sidelined with right shoulder impingement. LeVert’s return to the starting lineup would be more likely if Garrett Temple misses his second consecutive game with a right knee contusion that the Nets believe is a short-term issue.
The Raptors are 2-4 in their last six games and are coming off a historically bad night of 3-point shooting on Thursday in an 84-76 loss at the Miami Heat.
Toronto was held under 80 points for the first time since Jan. 20, 2017, in Charlotte. The Raptors went 6 of 42 (14.3 percent) on 3-point attempts while struggling to find ways to penetrate to the rim against Miami’s frequent use of zone defense.
“That was a frustrating game for everybody,” Toronto guard Fred VanVleet said after missing 10 of 11 3-point tries. “It happens a few times throughout the year. I don’t know to that extent. But what are you going to do? We’ve just got to keep playing, keep shooting and try to find a way. We kept fighting until the end. They didn’t make much more than us. They made just enough to get the win.”
Serge Ibaka led the Raptors with 19 points but Kyle Lowry was held to 15 as he shot 4 of 16 and missed 10 of 12 3-point attempts as Toronto produced its lowest percentage from 3-point range since shooting 13.3 percent (2 of 15) at Miami on March 11, 2017.
Toronto is 16-1 in the past 17 meetings with the Nets, and the one loss was a 106-105 overtime setback in Brooklyn on Dec. 5, 2018. The Raptors recorded a 110-102 home win on Dec. 14, when Pascal Siakam scored 30 points.
–Field Level Media