SALT LAKE CITY — With Allen Crabbe out of the Nets’ lineup because of recurring knee pain, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson found himself hoping for a breakout game from Caris LeVert, who started in Crabbe’s place but struggled offensively in his first 14 games back from a dislocated right ankle.
Atkinson moved LeVert from the starting lineup to the bench for five games before facing the Jazz, and he averaged 10.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists and was an impressive plus-63 because of his defense. But LeVert started the season as the Nets’ leading scorer and No. 1 offensive go-to guy, and after returning from his injury, he simply hasn’t regained that form.
Atkinson said he was happy with LeVert’s defense in Wednesday’s loss at Oklahoma City, but LeVert scored only eight points and shot 3-for-10. “He’s going to catch his rhythm at some point offensively,” Atkinson said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
Atkinson agreed when it was suggested that LeVert is getting in position to score but struggling to finish. “Yeah, I think it’s a feel,” he said. “He gets in the paint, he gets deep and now what do I do? There’s kind of an indecision on how to attack that big. Now you’ve got the ultimate test tonight in [Jazz center Rudy] Gobert. He’s the No 1 goaltender in the league.’’
LeVert scored six points and shot 3-for-12 in the Nets’ 114-98 loss to the Jazz.
“I’d love to see Caris go off one night and explode and just finish,’’ Atkinson said. “I think he’s picking it up and just doubting himself a little. We’re working on it. He’s looking at a lot of film and working on it in practice. I think this is to be expected. This is the timeframe you need to get your rhythm back.’’
Carroll, Graham return
DeMarre Carroll returned after a two-game absence and Treveon Graham returned after sitting out five games. Shabazz Napier (hamstring) was out.