2. A positive sign in a tough loss was LeVert’s play
Saturday night will mark the first time in their three meetings this season the Brooklyn Nets will have Caris LeVert available against the Miami Heat.
LeVert was out with a dislocated right foot when the teams met twice in November, a 120-107 Heat win at Barclays Center on Nov. 14 and a 104-92 Brooklyn victory at AmericanAirlines Arena on Nov. 20.
Friday night against the Charlotte Hornets, LeVert was coming off the first scoreless game since his rookie season and had a solid bounce-back effort.
In 24 minutes against the Hornets, LeVert scored 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting — the best since his return on Feb. 8 — and hit 2-of-4 from 3-point range to go with seven rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot.
LeVert has scored in double figures in five of the eight games he’s played since coming back from a 42-game absence, but has not scored more than 15 points in any of those contests.
He is at 9.5 points, 3.9 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 23.6 minutes per game since his return, shooting at 35.3 percent overall and 29 percent on 3.9 deep attempts a game.
To his credit, he is not leaning on the injury as an excuse for his uneven play thus far, telling Mike Mazzeo of the New York Post on Thursday:
"“Three months is a long time to be out, but I don’t want to put it all on the injury. I feel like I could have had better energy defensively and maybe sparked something offensively. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it was. “I feel like I;m getting close every day. Even though [Wednesday] was a step back, I still feel like I’m right there. My confidence is still at the same spot it was.”"
LeVert certainly had his burst and his herky-jerky interior moves on full display on this play Friday night, getting to the rim off the bounce. He was sprung by a Jarrett Allen screen before freezing Cody Zeller with a couple of hesitation moves on the way to the bucket.
It is a major injury to come back from and, unlike Spencer Dinwiddie — who returned Friday night after missing 14 games following thumb surgery — LeVert had to rebuild his conditioning after being in a boot and limited in his lower body for a long period.
So the pieces will be slow to come back together.
But Friday night showed some signs that day may be coming soon.