Nets happy to have Caris LeVert back in fold vs. Pacers

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·3 min read
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots over Boston Celtics center Daniel Theis during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 11, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
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To obtain James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets parted with some of their young core who made them a destination for stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in free agency.

One of those pieces was Caris LeVert, whom the Nets will oppose Wednesday night when they visit the Indiana Pacers.

Brooklyn will also face Indiana without the services of Irving (right groin soreness) and Durant (left hamstring strain). The two join Blake Griffin (left knee -- injury management) in being ruled out of Wednesday's game.

LeVert joined the Nets in a draft-night trade with the Pacers in 2016 as the Nets were in their infancy stage of rebuilding under GM Sean Marks. In 225 games with the Nets, he averaged 13.1 points, improved his scoring average each season and was viewed as an attractive piece in any trade to include Harden.

LeVert averaged 25 points in Brooklyn's eight games in the bubble last summer and was averaging 18.5 points in 12 games before being part of the Harden trade on Jan. 14. In his final five games as a Net, LeVert scored 130 points and shot 50 percent.

He is just two games into his tenure with the Pacers, however, after a cancerous mass on his left kidney was discovered during a team physical and medical testing before the four-team trade was official.

"We're really proud that Caris is returning to play here," Nets coach Steve Nash said before Monday's game against the New York Knicks. "He's incredibly well-loved in this organization, a world-class human being, a terrific basketball player. There's no doubt everyone here is rooting for him."

LeVert returned on Saturday and scored 13 points in a 122-111 win over the Phoenix Suns. He then scored 17 points in Monday's 121-106 loss at Denver.

"I'm just honored and humbled to call him a friend, call him a brother," Irving said. "I wish nothing but maximum health and success. I love him and my family loves him, so going back and seeing him is always an honor, and it's even better to go and compete against him because I know he's going to give us his best and that's what we want."

The Nets head to Indiana as the NBA's hottest team on a 13-1 run that started with a 104-94 home win over the Pacers on Feb. 10. They are on a five-game winning streak since a 115-98 loss to Dallas on Feb. 27 and enter Wednesday with a seven-game road winning streak.

Eight of Brooklyn's wins in this streak are by double-digits and the Nets are coming off their two toughest wins. After struggling offensively most of Saturday in a 100-95 triumph over Detroit, the Nets gave up nearly all of an 18-point lead against New the Knights on Monday before escaping with a 117-112 victory.

On Monday, Irving scored 34 points and Harden totaled 21 points, 15 assists and 15 rebounds. Harden has 10 triple-doubles with the Nets and six are during the last 12 games.

Indiana is struggling to find its footing this season and since getting over .500 on Feb. 17, the Pacers are 2-7 in their past nine and have allowed over 110 points in eight of those games.

Monday, the Pacers allowed at least 120 points for the ninth time this season and at least 15 3-pointers for the 11th time. After nearly overcoming a 20-point deficit, they were outscored 34-15 in the fourth quarter.

"I think for us to get to where we want to go, we can't get down 20 points to a good team like that," LeVert said. "I think a lot of it was on the defensive side of the ball, so we just got to clean that up."

--Field Level Media