NEW YORK -- There were times when Shaun Livingston didn’t think he’d be on the big stage again, playing the game of basketball at a high level.
But Livingston never gave up. There would, he felt, be light at the end of the tunnel.
And there was.
“I’ve been through a lot,” said Livingston, who overcame one of the most gruesome knee injuries in recent sports history back in 2007 to play an integral role with Deron Williams out for the Brooklyn Nets.
“I’ve been in some rough places, especially after my injury [in 2007], but that’s a long time ago. And there were a lot of different thoughts, but those doubts kind of turned to faith. My family, everybody that’s been in my corner, God, it’s brought me a long way.”
Friday night at Barclays Center, Livingston had one of the best games of his career.
He finished with 19 points, a career-high 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and a huge charge in a career-high 51 minutes, helping the Nets beat the two-time defending champion Miami Heat 104-95 in double overtime.
“Everybody on this team knows his journey,” Kevin Garnett said of Livingston. “Everybody on this team, other than probably [rookie] Mason [Plumlee], everybody is familiar with his story. Couldn’t have happened to a better dude, a better individual. I see him work every day and I’m very proud to be his teammate. I’m glad things are turning for him. I’m happy for him. We’re all happy for him.”
Livingston made several big plays -- none bigger than the one he made with 36 seconds left in the first OT.
With the Heat trailing 93-91, LeBron James, who had five fouls, began driving to the basket. But Livingston stepped in to take the charge. James fouled out, and the Heat never recovered. They were able to get the game to a second OT, but the Nets scored the first 11 points of the second extra session and never looked back.
“I was just trying to make him uncomfortable,” Livingston said of James, who finished with a game-high 36 points. “He’s a rhythm player. He’s obviously one of the best players in the league, he can get to any spot on the court, pull up, shoot the 3. He can do it all. In that situation, he had been going to the rim, so I was just trying to bait him into driving and really trying to beat him to the spot.”
Nets coach Jason Kidd pumped his fist when he realized James was done for the night.
“That was an accident,” Kidd joked.
During the Nets’ 5-0 month of January, Livingston is averaging 11.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.2 blocks, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks in 37.6 minutes. The Nets would probably like to conserve his minutes more, but they haven’t been able to because he’s the only healthy point guard they can trust to run the offense and facilitate for his teammates. His defense has also been stellar.
“I’m just trying to be aggressive,” Livingston said. “That’s really the main thing: attack offensively, creating shots for me and my teammates.”
Livingston walked into the locker room wearing massive ice bags around both of his knees.
Asked if he remembered the last time he played as many as 51 minutes in a game, Livingston laughed.
“No,” he said. “I feel OK. It’s just maintenance. The same thing, just taking care of my body, icing and resting.”
The Nets are going to need a productive Livingston the rest of the way.
Livingston, who had already begun thinking about Saturday night’s game in Toronto, certainly doesn’t want to look back.
“It’s really just trying to be in the present,” he said. “You can’t live in the past.”