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LeVert drops 27, Nets defeat Spurs in scrimmage: 124-119

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Brooklyn Nets v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

After losing by 31 points against the New Orleans Pelicans in their first scrimmage, the Nets came back and found their way Saturday defeating the San Antonio Spurs 124-119 in Orlando. Despite missing Jamal Crawford and Donta Hall, the Nets capitalized from deep and rallied behind Caris LeVert.

The Nets put six players in double figures: Levert had 27 (in 22 minutes); Tyler Johnson and Rodions Kurucs both had 17. Joe Harris finished with 12 while Garrett Temple and Jarrett Allen scored 10 each. Allen also had 11 rebounds for his second scrimmage double-double.

The Nets who led most of the middle quarters were faced with a Spurs comeback late, but with Johnson hitting back-to-back three’s and Lance Thomas and Dzanan Musa supplying late defensive heroics, the Nets were able to hold on.

Chris Chiozza, although he scored only four points, played an otherwise solid game with seven assists and seven rebounds despite being the smallest player on the court. “He sees the pass before it’s supposed to be delivered,” said Jacque Vaughn.

Vaughn was also pleased at Kurucs games. After a disappointing season before the NBA stoppage, the Latvian big has had two solid games in the “bubble.”

“He’ll space the floor for us. He’s really learning the nuance of when to roll, when to space, when to be a receiver, when to be a giver. So I think you see the joy that he’s embracing of just playing,” added Vaughn.

In general, Vaughn said via Zoom that he liked how the team responded after a 99-68 loss in the first scrimmage vs. the Pelicans ... without Zion Williamson.

“I do like the fact that our guys didn’t like the way the game was resolved. So we wanted to play better,” Vaughn said. “That was a big test for our group, come out and play with energy and effort.”

“I think it started from the defensive effort,” added LeVert. “I think [Chris Chiozze] and myself kind of set the tone, guarding better tonight. I think that contributed to easier looks on the offensive end.”

“Rodi obviously adds a new wrinkle to us playing some five,” said Harris. “I think he’s one of those players that has excellent size, length, athleticism, he’s able to attack off the bounce and he’s also able to knock down shots so he puts the five man in a pretty compromised position and he did a really good job of opening things up for us on the offensive end.”

It was a stalemate in the early portion of the game, but LeVert and Kurucs gave them a much-needed boost, which made for a much more entertaining first half opposed to Wednesday night. LeVert hit five of his first 11 shots, while Kurucs nailed all three of his 3-point attempts. It was tied, 57 apiece at half.

Kurucs had 12 points in eight minutes, going 3-of-3 from 3-point land in the first half, keeping up his stellar play in the two scrimmage games the Nets have played. If you're looking for a consistent positive from the Nets thus far, it has been Kurucs — who’s been playing the backup 5 with Donta Hall out.

In the second half, LeVert kept the boat steady, scoring 12 of his 27 points in the third quarter. The Nets led by eight entering the fourth, out-scoring the Spurs 39-31 in the third. Garrett Temple was crucial in the third quarter, nailing two 3-pointers which put the Nets up double digits soon thereafter.

For perspective, the Nets had 67 points with 7:50 left in the third. They scored 68 points all of Thursday.

However, the Nets loosened the grip and the Spurs regained the lead, 105-103, with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Vaughn took most of his starters out and Brooklyn’s second unit struggled.

And then, with less than three minutes remaining, Johnson came off the bench and nailed two clutch 3-pointers to give the Nets a seven-point lead with 2:29 remaining. Then, Musa sealed the deal with a pair of free throws, giving the Nets a seven-point lead with 54 seconds left.

Johnson played extremely well in his Nets debut, scoring his 17 points in 18 minutes. Allen was stellar again, finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds in his 23 minutes. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot struggled, while Musa logged his first minute at the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Musa led all Nets’ scorers on Wednesday with 11 points.

Brooklyn shot 43 percent from the field, 32 percent from three, dished out 27 assists and turned the ball over just 11 times. Oh yeah, and they had 14 steals - three from LeVert.

Overall, as Spencer Dinwiddie tweeted at game’s end, a good win after a bad loss...

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FRIEND OF KEVIN

Durant also liked what LeVert did during the game...

THE AGELESS BUCKET

For a different perspective, head on over to Pounding the Rock, our sister site on SB Nation.

Next up: Scrimmage no. 3 on Monday against the Utah Jazz, 5:30 PM. The game will be live on FOX Sports Go and tape delay after the Yankee game on YES. It’s the last scrimmage before the Nets start their seeding games next Friday.