BROOKLYN - It was nickname night in Brooklyn, as King James and the Miami Heat were in town to take on The Big Ticket and the Brooklyn Nets. Miami was coming off a road loss to the New York Knicks the night prior, while the Nets were riding a 4-game win streak.
Plenty of key players out in this one, with Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers out for the Heat and Deron Williams and Brook Lopez out for the Nets. Still, with LeBron James in town and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett lined up on the other side of the basketball, there was no shortage of intrigue.
Obviously, though, this was the biggest test of the Nets' winning streak, and in what's been "typical" for the 2014 Nets, energy effort, and Joe Johnson and Shaun Livingston carried them to a 104-95 victory in double overtime. With his 32-point effort, Johnson --nickname JJ-- is averaging 27.3 points over the last three games, one of his best stretches as a Net. BUT Livingston had the best game of his career, finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and took a well-timed charge from King James that sent him to the bench for the evening.
Everyone played big minutes, led by Livingston's career high 51. Kevin Garnett played 36, the most he's played in a regular season game since February 25 of last season.
The energy and effort was there early for the Nets, as the game got underway with the Nets on a 6-0 run, and the offense continued to thrive thanks to Johnson, who was phenomenal, scoring 22 points on 9-of-10 (4-of-4 threes) shooting in the first quarter. LeBron James, though, kept things close, scoring 16 points on his own in the quarter, leaving the Nets with a one-point lead, 33-32.
Offense was pretty scarce in the second, when Kidd went to his reserves. Kidd returned the starters with the Nets carrying a one-point lead, while Speolstra pulled LeBron James to rest him, and still Brooklyn couldn't build on their lead. When LeBron returned at the 5-minute mark in the second, the Nets were still up by one point, 41-40.
Johnson slowed down in the second, scoring just four points in the quarter, but the defense was much, much better for the Nets as they closed out the half, taking a 53-45, on the backs of their defense.
Paul Pierce caught fire in the third, doing most of the heavy lifting for the Nets. He scored nine points in the quarter, with Johnson struggling to find his shot, scoring zero points in the third. The Nets also held LeBron to just seven points since the first quarter, which was a major victory for Brooklyn.
The Nets led 76-64 after three. It was all about the defense for the Brooklyn Nets. Again, energy and effort over everything. Now, it was close-out time as they entered the fourth up 12.
Things strted to get a little out of hand in the fourth quarter, with both teams playing physical basketball. It resulted, at one point, in a Mirza Teletovic flagrant-one foul when he wrapped up LeBron on a fast break attempt. From there, the Heat were able to pull within two points at the midway mark in the fourth. The physical played seemed to really get to LeBron, who picked up his fifth foul, out of frustration on a fairly wild offensive foul, knocking him off his game.
But, of course, you can never count out LeBron. Even with five fouls and three minutes to play he remained active and aggressive, keeping the Nets from running away with this one.
At the two minute mark, though, Norris Cole hit a three to put the Heat up by two points. The defensive effort for the Nets wasn't translating into buckets on the other end. They had gone cold.
Pierce knocked down a three to give the Nets a one-point lead at 1:45. LeBron responded on the other end with a bucket of his own, followed by a Johnson running jumper to give the Nets a one point lead, one minute remaining.
LeBron went 1-of-2 from the line to tie the game at 89-89 with 40 seconds to play. Brooklyn put the ball in Joe Jesus' hands and asked him to win the game. Johnson had a shot at it, so too did Paul Pierce, but Pierce couldn't get it to fall at the buzzer.
Unfortunately for the Nets, Kirilenko had hit his minutes limit in regulation, so he was unable to play in overtime, after having done a fantastic job on both sides of the ball -- defending LeBron and turning extra possessions on offense.
Brooklyn scored the first two buckets of the overtime period, going up by four points and getting stops on defense to hold the lead. It was a wild finish, to say the least, after LeBron fouled out on Livingston's offensive foul. That, however, didn't stop Norris Cole from draining a long jumper to tie the game at 93-93 with three seconds to go.
Livingston described what happened. “I was just trying to make (James) uncomfortable,” Livingston said. “He’s a rhythm player. He can get to any spot on the court, he can do it all, but in that situation he was going to the rim and I was just trying to bait him a little bit."
Double overtime, after Pierce missed another shot at the buzzer.
Livingston scored on a nice back-to-the-basket cut and dish from KG, followed by a Heat turnover to start the double-overtime period. Johnson then hit a runner, Pierce a three and the Nets were up by seven points, just like that.
They were able to hang on, beating the Heat 104-95 in double overtime for their fifth straight win.
Livingston was great, again, finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Johnson had a team-high 32 points, while Pierce finished with 23 points.
LeBron went for 36 points, five assists and seven rebounds.
Next up for the Nets, the Toronto Raptors on the road, Saturday night.
For more in the Heat, see: Hot Hot Hoops
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