In two first-round playoff games, Nets go-to guy Caris LeVert has produced back-to-back double-doubles and is averaging 15.5 points and 13.0 assists against the defending NBA champion Raptors. But the Nets trail 2-0 after Wednesday’s 104-99 Game 2 loss, and it’s obvious the Raptors, who have the NBA’s No. 2 defense, are giving LeVert superstar treatment.
In Game 2, LeVert was held to 5-for-22 overall shooting, missed all four of his attempts from three-point range and now is 0-for-6 from deep in the series. There were times when he drove into the paint, and up to three defenders would sink toward LeVert to cut off his options. In the second half, LeVert managed just four points on 2-for-9 shooting and four assists.
Discussing the Nets’ 7-for-20 fourth-quarter shooting, LeVert said, “I know at one point, they went to like a box-and-one [zone]. They were switching up their looks a little bit. We’ve got to adjust to that better. They went to a 2-3 zone for a couple possessions. They did a good job switching their defenses up. It seemed like [the Nets’ offense] was a little stagnant, but we have to watch the film and see.”
LeVert’s unselfish play has helped fuel a pair of double-double performances by center Jarrett Allen, who had 14 points to go with 15 rebounds in Game 2. But Allen sensed the difficulties LeVert is facing and the importance for his Nets teammates to relieve the pressure.
“You look at his whole run through the bubble, and Caris has been playing amazing,” Allen said. “They know he’s a big part of our offense, and they’re trying to take it away. Knowing the Raptors’ defense, that’s what they’re great at is swarming the ball and swarming Caris to make sure he doesn’t make plays.”
LeVert was heartened by the vast improvement the Nets made from Game 1 to Game 2. “We played defense for a full 24 seconds every possession,” LeVert said. “We had some mental mistakes late in the third and in the fourth a little bit, as well. But we really competed. I’m proud of the effort we gave. If we clean up a little bit of the mental mistakes, we’ll be right where we want to be.”