OAKLAND – Shaun Livingston is all about preservation.
He’s 32 years old which in basketball years is creeping up on ancient. So during the regular season, he paces himself, making sure he’s ready for the games that matter the most.
His strategy has proven very effective in the playoffs so far, where he’s averaging 9.5 points a game on 51.2 percent shooting from the field. It’s his second-highest postseason output since he averaged 9.7 points in 2013-14.
“Shaun has been fantastic in these playoffs,” Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re relying on him heavily without Steph. We’ve divided the point guard duties between Andre [Iguodala] and Shaun. It’s so great to have one or the other on the floor all the time.”
With Stephen Curry sidelined since March 23 because of a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee, Livingston has helped breathe some life into the Warriors’ offense.
He’s scored in double-figures in four of the Warriors’ six playoff games, most recently finishing with 10 points on 50 percent shooting in the Warriors’ 123-101 win over New Orleans in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals series.
It’s a significant uptick from the regular season when Livingston averaged 5.5 points on 50.1 percent shooting in 15.9 minutes a game. Kerr joked that he’d sometimes tell Livingston and Iguodala to “pick it up a little bit.” But he knew they had the bigger picture in mind.
“Nah, not at this point with all of the wear and tear, they both need to conserve their bodies in the regular season and be ready for the playoffs,” Kerr said. “And you’re seeing it out of both of them. They’ve both been awesome.”
Livingston said it’s no accident that he’s peaking right now. He credits the coaching staff for limiting his minutes and for trusting him to manage his body and seek treatment as he saw fit.
“It’s a marathon, right?” Livingston said. “The season is such a grind and every year it seems like it gets harder and harder. But that’s just father time. I’m really fortunate to be part of a really smart, intelligent organization.”
Livingston was a key part of the Warriors’ incredible second quarter run in Game 1 against the Pelicans. He had eight points on three-for-three shooting, helping the Warriors outscore the Pelicans, 41-21, over that period.
He also helped open things up for his teammates. Kerr said he often has Livingston play post-up basketball because he spaces the floor in a unique way.
“It gives our offense a different look,” Kerr said. And obviously, with the shooting around those guys, it’s a nice blend. So Shaun has been a perfect fit here over his four years.”
Kevin Durant said Livingston can defend well and he exploits mismatches with his length on the offensive end. But he added that a lot of what Livingston contributes doesn’t even show up on the stat sheets.
“Just a guy who has experienced a lot,” Durant said. “Been a part of this group for a while and knows what it takes to win a championship. And knows how hard it is to win a championship. The experience definitely helps us. His IQ is high and he cares. That’s a lethal combination when you got all those things I just named — and Shaun has it all.”
Durant said Livingston is quiet, but he often speaks up in the locker room in meaningful ways.
“He’s encouraging guys when they do well,” Durant said. “Lifting guys up when they’re struggling for a few quarters, or possessions or a few games. You need that, especially a guy who has been through so much and knows what it takes to bounce back, defy the odds. It’s a pleasure having him as a teammate and I learned so much from him the past few years.”
Kerr echoed that sentiment, calling him an “unbelievable teammate, human being, leader.”
“Just a phenomenal person,” Kerr said.
For Livingston, being a good teammate on and off the court, especially during the high stakes playoffs, has been his ultimate focus all season long. That and helping the Warriors reach their ultimate goal — winning their second straight championship.
“At this stage in my career, that’s where it’s at,” Livingston said.
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