Shaun Livingston’s goal every defensive possession is to be active with his hands and create difficulties for his opponent.
It’s fair to say to that he achieved that goal Monday night.
Livingston had a career-high seven steals while also filling up the stat sheet with 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds, helping the Nets force a season-high 26 turnovers in a 108-102 victory over the 76ers.
“I was just trying to be active in the passing lanes,” Livingston said. “I’ve been on the wing guarding some of the better scorers. I was trying to be active, be disruptive, help my teammates and be in the right spots on defense.”
Paul Pierce led the Nets with 25 points (14 free throws), Deron Williams added 21 points and six assists and Mirza Teletovic hit five 3-pointers during a 20-point night. As productive as those nights were, both players were more than glad to gush about Livingston’s night.
“Oh man, he’s a guy who’s gaining confidence week by week [with an] increased role,” Pierce said. “He believes in his ability; he’s so versatile out there. He can play the point guard or two guard, he can guard one through three through four. Whatever we ask of him he’s given to us. He’s sort of like a glue guy out there. Whatever we ask of him, he’s given the team.”
“Shaun is amazing,” Teletovic said. “He helps out in every position from the point guard, two, three, the four guard, assists, score and just everything. He’s a huge part of this team and he has a lot of advantages because of his size.”
The Nets snapped a three-game losing streak that featured a blowout loss to Oklahoma City sandwiched by one-point defeats against Toronto and Indiana. They did so by getting their handsinto the passing lanes, leading to 15 steals.
“Just look at Shaun with seven steals,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “So he was all over, his fingerprints were all over this game, offensively, defensively and finding his teammates.
“We had active hands, deflections [and] steals. That means everybody is in tune defensively. In this league you can play great defense and still be scored on, but if you can get some deflections and kind of disrupt their rhythm that can help you get a win.”
Livingston had the most steals by a Net since Kendall Gill also had seven on Nov. 15, 1999 against the Supersonics. He joined Michael Carter-Williams as the second player this season to have at least 10 points, six rebounds, eight assists and seven steals in a game.
The Nets became the first team this season to have at least 13 steals in three straight games. It also gave them three straight games with 13 or more steals for the first time since April 6-10, 1990 when the Nets had 44 in a three-game stretch against Golden State, Miami and Boston in the final weeks of a 65-loss season.
This time the Nets are 21-25 with 11 wins in their last 15 games and 43 steals in their last three games. Of course none of their active play in the passing lane would have meant a thing had they succumbed for the fourth straight time by not executing down the stretch.
The Nets fell behind by seven late in the first half before an impressive run gave them a five-point lead at halftime. They pushed that lead to 19 points early in the third and 16 points (87-71) a minute into the fourth before things became rather dicey and put the outcome in doubt.
Philadelphia was within 97-95 on a 21-foot jump shot by Lavoy Allen with 3:41 left but the Nets seemed to figure it out by ripping off the next seven points on an 18-footer by Williams, a three-point play by Teletovic off a pretty bounce pass in the paint and two free throws by Pierce.
Still, James Anderson was wide open in the right corner near Brooklyn’s bench and buried a 3-pointer to make it 104-102 with 22.7 seconds left. But Livingston created a fitting ending with 5.8 seconds to play by intercepting a pass by Carter-Williams and sinking the foul shots to seal a game his active hands changed in favor of the Nets.
“It’s great,” Livingston said. “I’m just trying to play the right way. As long as we get the win, that’s what I’m about. I play to win. If I have great numbers, that’s great. Obviously you feel good about it but still I’m playing to win.”
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.