The Brooklyn Nets not only lost their leading scorer when Caris LeVert went down with a dislocated right foot, but also a key piece of their defense.
Before the Nets took on the Miami Heat Wednesday night, coach Kenny Atkinson said, per NetsDaily:
"“It’s been a tough 48 hours.”"
He was referring LeVert’s devastating injury along with a loss to the Timberwolves in Minnesota. While LeVert expected to return to the court at some point this season, it is clear that LeVert was playing at the top of his game and at the top of the Nets’ roster as a whole.
Coming off the team’s rough couple of days, they looked to bounce back Wednesday night against the Heat in Brooklyn. Fans expected a rally behind LeVert’s injury, but the result was a blowout loss. It became clear fast that living without LeVert is not going to be easy.
Not only did the Nets miss LeVert as a scorer, but more importantly No. 22’s absence was severely felt on the defensive side of the floor. LeVert’s athleticism allows him to run with the best of them and the Heat found a clear hole in the Nets rotation without him.
To add to missing LeVert, Jarrett Allen was out with an illness.
The Nets’ defense will determine this season’s outcome and this was as clear as ever without LeVert and Allen. LeVert’s coverage in the backcourt and Allen’s rim protection allowed the Nets to get up early on opponents this season in a big way.
Now, without the two, the Nets are going to see what the bench can bring to the floor on the defensive side of the floor.
The Nets were near the bottom of the league last season in almost every defensive category and it was not until the beginning of this season that fans started to see the team take a turn.
The defensive improvements the Nets showed in a nine-game stretch from the win at Cleveland to the victory at Denver gave fans hope that the change on defense is finally being made.
That nine-game stretch is who the Nets are defensively this year and they have the ability to keep it up even after taking a big step backwards against Miami. Atkinson has put a system in place for sustained success that will not crumble by the injury of one player.
Allen is expected to return soon to protect the rim, as I expect the rest of the team to pick up the slack after losing LeVert. This team has what it takes to be successful on defense, now and by the time LeVert returns they should be hitting a stride.
It won’t be easy, but it is time to trust the coaching staff.