Imagine playing for the Cavaliers, and spending the better part of the last two nights stress-dreaming about how you will possibly be able to survive Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Then imagine playing in Game 1 of the NBA Finals and escaping their wrath with nothing more than a 20-point flesh wound. Then imagine dying anyway because Shaun Livingston decided to rain mid-range jumpers from the rafters.
Livingston scored 20 points on just 10 shots in 26 minutes last night, and he did most of the damage with his pet shot, an unblockable mid-range jumper:
It feels unfair for the best offense in basketball to also be carrying around a backup point guard who is 6-foot-7 and can morph into LaMarcus Aldridge for a few minutes every game. I mean, what are the Cavs supposed to do about that shot? Have Matthew Dellavedova sneak a step ladder onto the court?
Livingston’s been hitting that shot all year, its sting usually overshadowed by the detonation of whatever nuclear device Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green were able to rig up for the evening. But Livingston’s jumper had the stage all to itself last night, and it reminded us that the man shooting it is more than just a run-of-the-mill backup point guard. He’s a brilliant player in his own way, and is precisely the kind of luxury that a team needs to possess in order to pull off a 73-win season.
As frustrating as it is for Cavs fans to watch their team get busted up by a guy who averaged 6.3 points per game this season, it’s just as rewarding for those of us who still haven’t gotten over the catastrophic knee injury that robbed Livingston of what was shaping up to be a great career. Watching those mid-range jumpers fall last night, it was easy to imagine an alternate reality in which Livingston stayed healthy, and spent the last decade zipping passes over the heads of tiny defenders and hitting game-winners over thickets of outstretched arms. There would be thinkpieces and retrospectives dedicated to his mid-range jumper.
It’s unlikely that Thompson and Curry’s wattage will remain low enough throughout the rest of the series to allow Livingston another star turn, but that’s okay. The game has been very unfair to Shaun Livingston, and it was nice to see him, even if for just one game, be the one who isn’t fair.