This is the matchup many have been clamoring for in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. A team designed by nature to bring down the Miami Heat, the Brooklyn Nets are the only team since the formation of Miami’s Big Three to sweep the regular season series against the defending champs.
Much will be made of the matchups of LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce, or Chris Bosh vs. Kevin Garnett, but if there were one player the Heat needed to focus their collective manic defense against, he would be Shaun Livingston.
This has been a comeback season for the veteran shooting guard, and his impact in this postseason will be no different. Throughout the first four games of the regular season against the Heat, Livingston averaged 10 points, 3.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals while shooting a blistering 47 percent from the field. The biggest issue in defending the Nets is that they have multiple players on the floor that can score on you at will, which can really stretch a defense thin.
Livingston has made a living this season scoring off of open looks courtesy of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, or Garnett. These are all players who will demand a defenses attention based on how well they can shoot the rock, which can result in Livingston getting even more free space to operate with.
Defending such an offensive juggernaut in the Nets won’t be a small feat for the Heat, especially over the course of seven potential games. We all know what to expect from Pierce, Garnett, Johnson and Williams, but Livingston is the true x-factor in this series. His length and size at the shooting guard position has bothered the Heat’s team and individual defense all season long, and now is the time for the defending champs to take a good hard look at how to stop Livingston from getting so many easy buckets.
Three of the four regular season games the Heat lost against the Nets were within one point. The other game went into double overtime before the Heat seemed utterly gassed and got outscored by nine. This series has been extremely close, regardless of what the final box score says, and Livingston’s impact has been a difference-maker on several occasions in this regular season series. The Heat have to stop him from doing the same thing in the playoffs.