Shaun Livingston has given the Golden State Warriors more relief than imaginable. The 6’7 point guard is a valuable asset to the reigning NBA Champions and is one of the better bench players in the league. Backing up Stephen Curry is no easy task and Livingston’s smooth game makes it look less complicated than it actually is. Teams double, triple, and in some cases, quadruple (looking at you, Clippers) team Curry. Livingston doesn’t warrant nearly the same type of attention and at times, given tons of space due to his limited range.
However, he brings a different type of pace to the team, one that slows the game down. Livingston doesn’t have Curry’s speed or offensive skill, but he’s a better defender and no point guard in the league can post up the way he does. The opposition has trouble guarding him due to his unusual size for a point guard. His wingspan also makes it difficult for offensive players to get going and in rhythm.
There’s no question that Livingston can start for many teams across the league, but his prior injury issues are a cause for concern. With Curry being out the length that he has and potentially even longer down the road, the Warriors should be worried about wearing down their 30-year-old backup floor general.
Through 8 playoff games thus far, Livingston has played 222 minutes. Compare that to the 375 total in 21 games last season. A whopping upgrade of 27.8 per game, compared to just under 20 in the regular season. He’s already started 3 more games in the postseason than he did in the 82-game regular season. He’s played 78 regular season games in back to back years with Golden State.
A knee injury isn’t something that you ever try to rush, especially when it belongs to the best player in the world. We saw Kyrie Irving try to come back early from a somewhat similar issue last season, resulting in him to re-aggravate the injury and miss the remainder of the NBA Finals. The Warriors need Curry to be 100 percent when he comes back. There is some question of whether or not he should have played in Game 3 against the Houston Rockets after having reoccurring ankle and foot injuries and some theories say his knee issue was a result of it. While it could have simply been a freak injury due to a wet spot on the floor, it’s difficult to get the ankle history away from the back of your mind.
“Honestly, if you lose the MVP, you better have somebody capable to come in,” Kerr said. “Shaun is obviously more than just capable. He’s a great player in his own right.”
The Warriors lost Game 3 in Portland and have now lost their last two games at the Moda Center by a combined 44 points. While Draymond Green and Klay Thompson played their hearts out on Saturday, Livingston handed out 10 assists, but only took four shots, the lowest he’s taken all postseason. His shooting numbers are down in the Semi-Finals at only 42 percent. Although it’s a small sample size, he did shoot 58 percent against the Rockets in more games.
Curry is back to practice and he’s participated in some 3 on 3 action. There hasn’t been any setbacks and the Warriors have seemed optimistic about a return in the near future. Curry being listed as questionable for Game 4 is actually good news. For the most part, it’s a 50 percent chance that the MVP will get a chance to play. Personally, I don’t see the Warriors rushing the face of their franchise in any way. However, there is that pressure to get Curry a game in before having to face either the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder. I think he ends up playing in Game 5.
Ian Clark has cracked some time in the rotation, but he’s clearly not ready to play at this stage consistently. He can be a good energy player off the bench at times, but Kerr will rush to get either Iguodala or Livingston in to run the point instead. With the uncertainty of Curry’s return, the Warriors have to find a way to get their reserve guard some time off the floor. If Golden State is on one of their infamous blowouts, Kerr has to give Livingston that Curry fourth quarter treatment and cut back on his minutes.
For a guy who might have never had the ability to walk regularly again, Livingston has filled the absence of Curry admirable. His basketball IQ and skills are ones that need to be showcased on the highest stage, just not under the amount of minutes he’s playing right now. Playoff minutes are different too. Everyone is giving it their all and legs get tired much quicker. Livingston isn’t meant to be playing this much, there’s a reason why Steve Kerr gave him random maintenance days during the season. This situation is obviously much, much harder to do than it is to say. It’ll be an interesting to see how the Coach of the Year handles it.