Starting Five: Livingston the key vs. Heat?

May, 6, 2014
May 6
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Brooklyn Nets guard Shaun Livingston had started 50 straight games since Jan. 1, and played a major role in the team’s turnaround in 2014.

But with the Nets down 3-2 to the Toronto Raptors in their first-round series, Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd decided to make a change, inserting Alan Anderson into the starting lineup in favor of Livingston, who came off the bench.

[+] EnlargeShaun Livingston
Claus Andersen/Getty ImagesShaun Livingston has been such a pleasant surprise for the Nets this season.
Many guys wouldn’t have been happy about being relegated to a reserve role. But Livingston has always been a team-first guy. There was no problem.

Livingston played only 28 minutes in the final two games against the Raptors, but his 4-for-4 performance from the field in the first half of Game 7 provided a huge boost.

Now, entering the Nets' second-round series against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, indications are that Livingston will return to the starting lineup, barring a last-minute change of heart.

And he could prove to be the X factor in the series.

Livingston played really well against the Heat during the regular season, averaging 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 34.6 minutes per game. He shot 46.9 percent from the field and had five steals. In the teams' third meeting March 12, Livingston clinched a one-point Brooklyn victory when he deflected an inbounds pass in the final seconds. LeBron James scored just 19 points in that game.

ESPN analyst Hubie Brown said Livingston played some of the best one-on-one defense on James that Brown has ever seen.

“Oh man,” Livingston responded upon hearing the praise.

“Again, it’s team, it’s about the team defense, and playing smart and obviously taking the challenge one-on-one, but also knowing where the help is so you can send him the bodies, try to make him play in a crowd,” Livingston continued.

The 6-foot-7 Livingston, an adept post scorer, should be able to use his size advantage against smaller Miami guards Dwyane Wade (6-4) and Mario Chalmers (6-2).

Livingston’s versatility and unselfishness make him a player to keep an eye on in this series, which begins Tuesday at American Airlines Arena.

Question: What kind of impact do you think Livingston will have against the Heat? Let us know in the Comments section below.

In case you missed it: The Nets feel confident heading into their matchup with the Heat. Deron Williams had an injection before Game 6 against the Raptors, but feels better as a result. Plus, our position-by-position breakdown and a scout’s take on the series.

Stat to know: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are 12-13 in 25 career playoff games against James.

Up next: Game 1 in Miami, tipoff at 7 p.m.

Mike Mazzeo

ESPN New York Writer

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Deron Williams
PTS AST STL MIN
16.4 6.9 1.2 35.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsK. Garnett 8.5
AssistsD. Williams 6.9
StealsD. Williams 1.2
BlocksB. Lopez 1.7