OAKLAND –- The single biggest question facing the Warriors entering Game 5 of their playoff series was whether they could withstand the absence of Steph Curry.
Shaun Livingston provided the answer Wednesday night, and it would have been hard for him to be more impressive in his delivery.
“We are really lucky,” coach Steve Kerr said after a 114-81 victory to close out the first-round series. “You lose your point guard, you lose the MVP, and to be able to put Shaun Livingston out there, he's a fantastic basketball player, a great teammate.”
Starting in place of Curry, the reigning MVP, Livingston played 28 sublime minutes, scoring 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting, while also racking up three assists and three rebounds. He had one turnover.
Livingston wasn’t Curry, but he was so good the Warriors barely felt the difference
“We don't know how long he's going to be out,” Livingston said of Curry. “Obviously, we're going to miss him. But at the same time there is a lot of basketball to play, and for the next series, it's a good momentum booster.”
This tells the Warriors then need not worry, at least for now. Livingston is a completely different kind of player than Curry. He’s an old-school thinker, a coach on the floor, fundamentally sound and with a deadly midrange jump shot.
Moreover, Livingston has the kind of perspective that can only come with what he calls his “journey,” from prep phenom to traumatic knee injury to years of rehabilitation and the tales of rejection that, for him, served as scar tissue.
“When you go through traumatic events like that, you understand,” Livingston said. “Now being in this position and playing with guys like Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, Draymond (Green), All-Stars, being on this team. There was a time I was getting waived off teams that weren't winning 20 games.
“So going through those experiences, it's humbling, and never getting too high or too low. Just respecting the process, keeping your head down and keep grinding.”
Livingston, 31, a 12-year veteran of 10 NBA teams, has the complete confidence of his teammates, and Kerr went so far as to express admiration.
“He's an incredibly smart player,” Kerr said. “People may forget; if it weren't for the knee injury, Shaun was heading for a superstar career. I mean he was going to be a multiple-time All-Star. I have so much respect and admiration for him because of the way he came back from that injury. It literally took him several years to really come back and he's been with ten teams or so.
“There's something about him. Maybe it's the experience he went through with the injury, or maybe it's just who he was already. He’s just an incredibly mature person, great teammate, and very, very smart basketball player.”