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Here’s a roundup of last night’s Nets festivities.
What happened: The Nets did it again, beating the Miami Heat 96-95 for the third straight time this season and improving to 23-9 on the new year. The Heat had a chance to win the game with 3.5 seconds left, but Shaun Livingston tapped away an inbounds pass, leading to Miami’s 17th and final turnover of the night.
Where they stand: With their win and a 98-85 loss by the Washington Wizards, The Nets are now 33-30 and hold the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re 3 games back from the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic Division lead.
That Was… One of the hardest-fought, best back-and-forth games we’ve had the pleasure of seeing all year out of Brooklyn. Even with Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko sidelined, the Nets fought for 48 minutes, out-rebounded their (admittedly poor rebounding) opponent, and forced turnovers, none bigger than their 17th and final swipe.
From our breakdown last night:
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.
Game Grades: Read ’em here.
THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE:
Paul Pierce loves this. He loves beating LeBron James, even if he doesn’t say it outright. He loves showing up to big games and taking guys down. He plays like he relishes in the fact that he beats guys by being more methodical.
Pierce dropped 17 points in the third quarter, and still somehow saved the best for last, hitting a three-pointer to put the Nets up 90-86 with under four minutes left and a sprawling layup to give him 29 points on the night. But he was perfect Truth in the second half: 22 points, 7-7 shooting, 4-4 from three-point range.
“With (Kevin Garnett) out, he’s become the heart and soul of our team,” Livingston said of Pierce after the game.
My twelve go-to Truth-related headlines:
1) The Truth Shall Set You Free
2) You Can’t Handle The Truth
3) Truth Hurts
4) The Fountain Of Truth
5) The Unadulterated Truth
6) Truth, Detected
7) Paul Pierce Is Very Good
8) The Truth Is In The Cards
9) Nothing But The Truth
10) Youth Is Not Wasted On The Truth
11) Cold Truthiness
12) The Truth Don’t Lie
Haven’t used that hashtag in a while. Teletovic made a huge difference on both ends of the floor, causing issues for LeBron James on defense and attacking the glass for easy baskets offensively. Teletovic made his presence felt most in the second quarter, but put down a three-pointer from Coconut Grove in the fourth quarter.
My Thoughts At The Half: KING FEARZA.
Nicknames: It was nickname night again for Nets-Heat, with two new additions: Marcus Thornton (“Marco”) and Jason Collins (DNP, but presumably “Twin”). I thought Thornton’s nicknames were “Bayou Bomber” and “Buckets,” two vastly superior nicknames to “Marco.” Why “Marco”?
Shaun Livingston, Doin’ Things:
Yeah, yeah, we showed this up there. (*waves up your screen.*) But let’s not lose sight of how big this was. This game was a coin flip until Livingston threw his spider-arms at the coin and grabbed it in midair before slamming it down tails. Livingston and Pierce’s contributions are the reason that this hybrid longball lineup can work, and it can wreak havoc on any kind of lineup.
Okay, Fine, Shaun Livingston Doin’ Other Things:
This was a big layup from Livingston in the fourth quarter. The YES feed doesn’t catch it cleanly, but Livingston switches hands mid-air through contact to put this one in at the rim.
The NBA should invent a “Shaun Livingston Award” just so Shaun Livingston is guaranteed an award. He deserves it with this year he’s having.
— The Brooklyn Game (@TheBKGame) March 13, 2014
This graphic, shown by YES Network at halftime, details the won-loss record for the Nets with various announcers. Mike Fratello was quick to note that Spanarkel’s record is skewed by the fact that he usually commentates at home.
Stopping LeBron: LeBron James is nearly impossible to stop. He’s a freight train with a decade of ballet training. There’s been far too many superlatives associated with him in ten years, so I’ll leave it there. But the Nets did one thing that may have actually worked against the reigning MVP: they made a concerted effort to keep James out of the paint and force him to make jumpers and make good decisions.
Yes, you read that right: make good decisions. Andrei Kirilenko once said that James was almost easier to defend than Kobe Bryant, not because Bryant was better, but because James was so smart you almost always knew what he was going to do. You always know he’s going to make the right decision. So the Nets used that knowledge to their advantage: they brought a double-team to James as soon as he got anywhere near the paint, using the second defender as a buffer to keep him away from the interior. It didn’t always work, but James only got six attempts in the paint, well below his average of 9.5 per game.
Deron Williams’s Only Moment Of Clarity:
This was Williams’s second and last field goal on the night and arguably the biggest shot of the game, putting the Nets up 96-92 with 35 seconds left. It was vintage Deron Williams: he came around a screen from Joe Johnson, shook Mario Chalmers with a dirty-quick crossover and stepback, and buried a midrange jumper. He also got a decent look on the following play, another stepback midrange jumper out of the exact same playset, but couldn’t knock it down.
Iso-No: I don’t know if it’s a good sign that the Nets won this game despite Joe Johnson’s awful play, or it’s a bad sign that Joe Johnson’s playing this poorly. Prior to tonight it looked like Johnson had finally gotten past his nagging injuries, shooting .529-.464-.857 with 18.6 points per game in his last five games, but Johnson put up a 2-10 clunker, including some shots he should have knocked down, and lost five turnovers.
The one saving grace: Johnson held his own against James and saved the loose ball inbounds on the last play of the game to Livingston, which helped turn the clock to 0.
Ian Eagle, Out Of Context: “It’s a wi-ii-iii-iiinnn…. For The Bird.”
Across the river: The New York Knicks blew out the Boston Celtics at TD Garden with a three-point barrage, winning 116-92. In bigger Knicks news, it looks like Phil Jackson is actually joining them in the front office.
Next up: The Nets have two days off after beating the defending champs: they travel to Washington, D.C. to take on the Wizards on Saturday night.