With 3.5 seconds left and the Brooklyn Nets clinging to a one-point lead, the Nets did something most teams struggle with in crunch-time moments: they switched.
“I wanted to get better with our switching,” coach Jason Kidd said after the game. “We lost some games earlier in the year by (poorly) switching.”
It also takes supreme confidence in your defense to switch defenders when you’re talking about the best player in the world, but that’s exactly what the Nets did — and it paid off.
With the Nets up 96-95, the Miami Heat tried to get Ray Allen open by having LeBron James set a screen, but Joe Johnson did something few players would do: he switched off James, trusting that Shaun Livingston would take James as an assignment. (Livingston also called out the switch.) Upon seeing the inbounds pass headed towards James, Johnson hedged back towards him, part of their game-long plan to double-team James as he approached the paint.
But it didn’t matter, because Shaun Livingston played the pass perfectly, sneaking above James and knocking the pass away harmlessly with his right hand towards the baseline. Johnson swung back towards the ball to tap it inbounds, which let the clock run out and gave the Nets the slim victory.
The play capped Brooklyn’s third win in three tries against the defending champion Heat, and it perfectly encapsulated what’s been so good about Brooklyn’s defense these days. They’re getting their hands on loose balls, poking loose seemingly controlled plays and swarming opponents with their hybrid small/quick/long lineups.
Nearly one in five possessions against the Nets in the calendar year 2014 has ended with a turnover, and this one was the biggest by far.