OAKLAND – Looking every bit like the team with the longer layoff, the Warriors on Tuesday night came out sagging and dragging, while the Rockets were running and gunning.
The Warriors needed a boost from somewhere, anywhere, and it came from backup guard Shaun Livingston.
Livingston injected a jolt of energy as well as some much-needed production in the second quarter, as the Warriors overcome a 16-point deficit and took a three-point lead into the half and hung on for a 110-106 win over Houston in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
“He was terrific,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Kept us in the game in the second quarter when we were really struggling. Getting to the foul line, hitting his little mid-range pull-up.”
Livingston played all 12 minutes of the quarter, scoring 14 points on perfect shooting – 5-of-5 from the floor, 4-of-4 from the line – and was crucial to a 25-6 run that allowed the Warriors to take a 58-55 halftime lead.
“My teammates were making plays,” Livingston said. “I was able to hit a couple shots, get going early. But I think we have some of the best playmakers in the NBA. Obviously Steph (Curry) gets a lot of attention, Klay (Thompson) gets a lot of attention, but Draymond (Green) is an underrated passer. We have multiple guys that can hit shots and also put the ball on the floor and make plays for their teammates.”
Livingston finished with 18 points, six rebounds and three assists. His 16-point first half points were a career high for the 10-year veteran, who upon becoming a free agent last summer signed a 3-year contract worth about $16.3 million. His 18 points Tuesday night were also a postseason career high for Livingston.
He was the third guard, alongside Curry and Thompson for much of the night. Livingston generally brings another dimension, that of a 6-foot-7 ball-handling playmaker who also blends into the team’s switching defensive schemes.
“Every night it’s way more than the points; he just happened to score tonight,” Green said. “The way he pushed the basketball for us, he continued to raise the tempo of the game.”