The Miami Heat wanted to get to the ball into the best player on the planet.
The Brooklyn Nets wouldn’t let them.
But Shaun Livingston -- using the “active hands” mantra that Nets coach Jason Kidd continually preaches -- deflected the pass.
Joe Johnson, alert as ever, saved the ball from going out, enabling Brooklyn to hang on for a one-point victory -- arguably its best of the season.
The Nets ended up holding James to just 19 points -- 7.9 below his season average.
Livingston, Johnson and Mirza Teletovic combined to contain the four-time MVP. James went just 2-for-6 from the field in the first half, and scored only two points in the fourth quarter.
Teletovic, not known for his defense by any stretch, had a career-high three blocks in the game -- all in the second quarter.
Twice he swatted Michael Beasley, and once he swatted James, not falling for any of his fakes.
The Nets have held their last eight opponents under 100 points, and are 7-1 in that span.
Since Jan. 1, Brooklyn has the best record in the Eastern Conference (23-9), and its defense is the main reason why.
During that span, the Nets rank first in the NBA in steals (10.2) and opponents’ turnovers (18.0). They rank fifth in defensive rating (101. points allowed per 100 possessions) and ninth in opponents’ field goal percentage (45.0).
The turnovers they’ve caused have made up for their lack of rebounding (36.2 per game since Jan. 1, last).
Kidd’s players have bought in on that end of the floor -- and it’s showed.
Question: How impressed are you with Brooklyn’s defense? Let us know in the comments section.
Up next: The Nets are practicing in Miami prior to Saturday night’s game in D.C.