If you tracked the Nets’ past three performances on a graph, it would look roughly like the wild swings the Dow Jones average has taken lately. On Tuesday in Boston, Caris LeVert’s career-high 51 points led a comeback from a 21-point deficit for a win over the tough Celtics, which was followed by a season-worst 39-point home loss to Memphis the next night.
But the Nets rebounded with an overpowering offensive performance that included the first triple-double of LeVert’s career in a 139-120 victory over the Spurs Friday night at Barclays Center. The icing on the cake was that it came in front of former Nets Hall of Famer Julius (Dr. J) Erving, who was seated at courtside.
“He’s a legend, one of the greatest to put on a Nets jersey and to put on a jersey in general,” LeVert said. “It was cool having him here. I saw him pregame ... I went up to him and said ‘What’s up?’ and we got a picture.”
It was the first time Erving attended a Nets game since they moved to Brooklyn, and he was treated to a record-setting performance that began with a season-high 41 points in the opening quarter and a franchise-record 45 third-quarter points that allowed the Nets to build a 120-95 lead through three quarters that shattered the previous franchise record of 112 points through three quarters.
The Nets (28-34) also tied a season-high with eight double-figures scorers topped by LeVert, who totaled 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. They also got 20 points from Joe Harris, 19 points and nine assists from Spencer Dinwiddie, 19 points from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, 13 points each from Taurean Prince and emerging backup point guard Chris Chiozza and 12 points and 10 rebounds from backup center DeAndre Jordan for his 10th double-double off the bench this season. Jarrett Allen added 12 points.
DeMar DeRozan topped the Spurs (26-35) with 24 points and nine assists, while Trey Lyles and Derrick White each added 19 points.
Many have touted LeVert as the Nets’ budding “third star” to go with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who are out the rest of this season with injuries. Asked if he’s reaching a new level, LeVert said, “I think so. Obviously, it sucks to have games like the Memphis game between those as far as a losing effort for the team. For us, if we just stay locked in as a team, we’ll continue to keep getting these wins.”
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson sent a message by calling for a morning shootaround, and he decided it was time for a lineup change, moving veteran Wilson Chandler ahead of Prince as the starting power forward.
“I talked to T.P. about it and said, ‘Your minutes are still going to be the same. We’re just going to try something different.’ It helped that second offensive unit. You get a little more shooting out there with T.P. Obviously, Wilson gives you that solid defensive presence.”
It was a needed kick in the pants. The Nets went on a 22-2 run to build a 29-8 lead, holding the Spurs to 1-of-10 shooting and forcing two turnovers during that stretch. A 16-1 second-quarter run gave them a high lead of 33 points, and they put it out of reach with their 45-point third quarter that featured outstanding ball movement as they recorded 11 of their total 32 assists.
“The ball was moving,” LeVert said. “We had a lot of assists. We played really good defense, got out in transition and we got some easy baskets that got our confidence up ... I feel like we didn’t compete to our abilities the last game. It left everybody with a sour taste in their mouth.
“So it felt good to get back out there and get a win.”