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Decision for Kenny Atkinson: Start Caris LeVert or DeMarre Carroll?

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson gestures during

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson gestures during the second half against the Detroit Pistons at Barclays Center on March 11, 2019. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

LOS ANGELES — Kenny Atkinson pulled a rabbit out of a hat when he replaced Caris LeVert in the starting lineup with DeMarre Carroll in the Nets’ victory over the Lakers on Friday night. Atkinson said the move was predicated on Carroll’s “corporate knowledge” of how to defend LeBron James, but now it’s an open question whether Carroll will start against the Trail Blazers on Monday night in Portland.

Last season, Carroll started every game he played, but he has fit in well with the Nets’ explosive bench this season before making his first start against the Lakers.

“It felt like we needed a little more size on LeBron, and DeMarre had played him a ton,” Atkinson said after the Nets practiced Sunday at the Lakers’ facility before flying to Portland. “I haven’t made a decision if we stick with that or bring Caris back in. It could be a game-to-game basis.”

James filled up the boxscore, finishing with 25 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds, but Carroll, Jared Dudley and Spencer Dinwiddie made him work, forcing him into an 8-for-25 shooting night with eight turnovers, including two late in the fourth quarter.

Although Carroll missed all five three-point attempts in the first half, his 3-for-4 effort from deep in the second half, when he scored all 15 of his points, helped ignite the offense and create space for point guard D’Angelo Russell.

“It makes complete sense,” Atkinson said. “Spatially, it gives us more of a catch-and-shoot guy. Is it better for DLo to have that? Is it better for the first group to have DeMarre, who is more of a stand-still shooter? The early returns look good.”

Carroll said it no longer matters if he starts, but when his shooting is on, he can make an impact.

“That’s what I do is shoot threes and play defense,” he said. “It can help open the floor a little bit more, and it can let a guy like DLo be ball-dominant and have the ball in his hands and get other guys involved.”

Backup center Ed Davis, who played with Portland the previous three seasons, also will have a key role against the Trail Blazers. He must defend big men Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter, but the Nets also utilized him in the pick-and-roll against the Lakers and he had 14 points and 15 rebounds.

Asked if he ever got that much offensive action with the Blazers, who rely on guards CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, Davis smiled and said, “When I was in Portland, it was more set the screen for CJ and Dame. The first option was a shot for them, the second option was a shot and the third option was a shot.”

He’d love to have the last laugh Monday night, too.

Notes & quotes: Allen Crabbe (sore right knee) is out.

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