The Nets nearly blew a 16-point, fourth-quarter lead, but their starting point guard duo made several key plays down the stretch, enabling Brooklyn to fend off the lowly Philadelphia 76ers 108-102 Monday night at Barclays Center.
The Nets (21-25) snapped a three-game losing streak.
"A win is a win, but you can’t be happy with the way we closed the game," Paul Pierce said. "We gave up layups, 3s. You know we were up by 19 and let them back in the game a couple of times. So if we play like that come Thursday [against the San Antonio Spurs], then we can’t expect to walk away with a win."
Williams, who had admittedly been struggling with his confidence of late, ignited a 7-0 run after the Sixers had closed within two with a tough fadeaway jumper and a beautiful feed inside to Mirza Teletovic for a 3-point play.
"Those were two big plays by Deron there," Nets coach Jason Kidd said.
But Philadelphia wouldn’t go away, once again reducing its deficit to just two, 104-102, with 22 seconds left.
Pierce, though, responded with a pair of free throws, and Livingston iced the game with his career-high seventh steal of the night, intercepting a bad pass by Michael Carter-Williams and also knocking down two ensuing freebies at the stripe to account for the final margin.
Williams, who missed nine of his first 10 shots and finished 3-for-12 from the field Saturday night in Indiana, finished with 21 points and six assists in 41 minutes, while Livingston flirted with a quadruple-double, filling up the stat sheet to the tune of 13 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and those 7 steals.
Pierce had a game-high 25 points, knocking down all 14 of his free throw attempts, Teletovic added 20 points (including five 3-pointers) and Kevin Garnett finished with 6 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 blocks, becoming just the 18th player in NBA history to record 2,000 career rejections.
"We got the win. That’s the biggest thing for the guys," Kidd said.
The Nets led by as many as 19. They should’ve coasted, but it seemed like they played down to their competition.
An 87-71 Brooklyn lead with 11:10 left quickly dwindled to 87-80 1:34 later. Philadelphia wouldn’t go away, and the Nets couldn’t put them away.
Still, as Kidd said, they won, matching their season high with 15 steals and coming up with timely plays while surviving despite not having the services of Joe Johnson (knee), Andrei Kirilenko (calf) and Andray Blatche (hip).
It was what it was. Nothing pretty. And there’s plenty of things they need to work on, but they’ll take it.
But, like Pierce said, if they play like this against the Spurs, they’re going to get beat.