Brooklyn Nets: Caris LeVert, D’Angelo Russell a tandem to look out for

Brooklyn Nets D'Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert. (Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets D'Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert. (Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images) /

Brooklyn Nets guards D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert combined for 48 points in Sunday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors and bigger things could be ahead.

The Brooklyn Nets paired Caris LeVert and D’Angelo Russell as the guard tandem in the starting lineup just eight games ago, including the preseason. LeVert began the preseason starting at the small forward spot, with Russell and Allen Crabbe manning the two guard spots.

But Crabbe’s ankle injury against the Detroit Pistons on Oct. 8 opened a spot in the lineup and coach Kenny Atkinson filled it by inserting Joe Harris at the 3 and shifting LeVert to the 2.

The results have been promising thus far. In six regular-season games, the LeVert-Russell pairing has combined to average 38.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 10.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game.

And the thing is, they’re for all intents and purposes still getting to know how to play with one another.

Russell talked about the growing bond with his newest backcourt partner after Sunday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors in which the pair tallied 48 points and nailed 10 3-pointers, while also dishing out 13 assists.

For some perspective on this, consider the case of the All-Star backcourt duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson that the Nets battled Sunday night.

Going into the 2014-15 season, when the Warriors won the first of their three titles in the last four seasons with its current core, Curry and Thompson were entering their fourth season together.

Curry got to the Warriors first, drafted with the seventh overall pick in 2009. Thompson came along two years later as the No. 11 overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft.

That first season together was something of a wash, as Curry missed 40 games after undergoing surgery on his right ankle. Per, the pair played just 133 minutes together that season.

That number grew to 2,487 in 2012-13 and they teamed up for 2,375 minutes in 2013-14. So going into that first championship season, Curry and Thompson knew what to expect from one another after sharing the court for almost 5,000 minutes (4,995 to be precise).

There have been times this season where Russell and LeVert haven’t appeared to be in sync.

Notably, there was a dribble handoff against the New Orleans Pelicans that went awry and then, of course, Russell’s infamous no-look pass to a spot where LeVert had once been.

That was the turnover with 7.5 seconds remaining that allowed New Orleans to take possession and, later, the lead.

LeVert got to the Nets first, his draft rights acquired from the Indiana Pacers in 2016 after he had gone 20th overall. Russell joined the mix last season in a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers.

Russell began last season as the starting point guard, while LeVert was a rotational wing.

After Jeremy Lin was hurt on opening night and Russell went down 12 games in, LeVert — out of sheer necessity — began backing up Spencer Dinwiddie at the point.

Russell missed two months after knee surgery and by the end of the season, Russell and LeVert had played together in 39 games for a total of 466 minutes, which wasn’t even among Brooklyn’s top-30 tandems.

This season they’ve added 155 minutes to that total, so they’ve just crested the 600-minute plateau.

So if it appears at times as if they’re still getting to know each other, it’s likely because they’ve just gotten past the wearing “Hello, My Name Is” stickers stage.

Their understanding of the other is growing game-by-game. Late in Sunday’s game, the Nets made their big push against the Warriors fueled by the tandem at the guard spots.

After Kevin Durant made a turnaround fader to put the Warriors up 11 with 5:43 to go, LeVert responded with a pull-up 3 that made the score 110-102. LeVert found Jarrett Allen for a layup a few possessions later to cut it to 110-104.

Russell then found LeVert for a delicious dunk off a baseline cut that brought it to a four-point deficit and on the next possession, it was Russell with a drive and a layup that made it 110-108.

Golden State hung on, with Durant ending a streak of eight straight missed shots by the Warriors with a mid-range jumper and Curry inserted the dagger with 1:08 to go with his seventh 3-pointer of the evening.

But Russell is correct — you can see the chemistry emerging between an unlikely pairing of former Michigan Wolverine (LeVert) and former Ohio State Buckeye (Russell).

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It’s a duo that has its best days still to come.