3. Lineup changes put LeVert, Hollis-Jefferson back on 1st unit
The Brooklyn Nets opted to sit rookie Rodions Kurucs, who was dealing with a a sprained left elbow, before Treveon Graham had to leave the team for a personal matter.
With two starters out of the mix, coach Kenny Atkinson went with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at the 4 and gave Caris LeVert — in just his third game back from a foot injury that cost him nearly three months — his first start since Nov. 12.
It was also the first time that two of the longest-tenured Nets had started together since that Nov. 12 game at Minneapolis in which LeVert was injured against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Hollis-Jefferson responded with one of his strongest efforts of the season. In 29 minutes, RHJ dropped in 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go with five rebounds and a steal.
Most importantly, Hollis-Jefferson played much more under control than he has of late. When he chose to go to the basket, he did it with a purpose and kept his head up rather than just charging in blindly.
LeVert is still shaking off the rust from his long absence, but had a team- and season-high nine assists while scoring 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting in 31 minutes, his longest outing since returning against the Chicago Bulls on Friday.
LeVert did knock down 2-of-5 from 3-point range, as well, his first made 3s since coming back, and had seven rebounds.
In three games since returning, LeVert is now averaging 9.7 points, 5.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 22.7 minutes per game, shooting 36.1 percent overall and going 2-for-13 from long range.
His minutes load has steadily increased, from 15 against Chicago to 23 against the Toronto Raptors Monday to 31 on Wednesday.
His ability to run the point was on display against the Cavaliers and his scoring touch will come back with more repetitions.
LeVert figures to be an important piece as the Nets head down the stretch, with an imposing schedule that includes a seven-game road trip next month and 16 of their final 23 games against teams currently holding playoff positions.