Statistics can tell us a lot about a game: who played well, who played poorly, and which team won. But they can't tell us how these numbers came about. That's why we're going inside the box score and finding out the story behind the stats.
Today's subject: Shaun Livingston and his 6/10 shooting night
Shaun Livingston, from 2008 to 2010, was an NBA afterthought. After literally snapping every ligament in his knee, he had brief stints with the Miami Heat, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Tulsa 66ers, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Washington Wizards, and finally the Charlotte Bobcats. Everybody wanted to see if his knee would allow him to recapture the immense potential he flashed with the Clippers before his injury.
As it turns out, that's not quite what happened, but Livingston managed to reinvent himself as a versatile wing, capable of driving to the hoop and dishing to teammates. Those talents were on display in Milwaukee's opening night loss to Charlotte. Livingston's 35 minutes were fourth on the team, and his 14 points and 6 assists were third and first on the night, respectively.
But how did he get there? Let's find out.
1st quarter, 3:13 - Livingston misses 3-foot shot, offensive rebound, made tip shot
Off a nice outlet from Bogut, Livingston runs the floor with Dunleavy against 3 very disinterested Bobcats. Dunleavy drives to the middle and dishes to Livingston, who takes one bounce and makes a nifty move with the ball, but misses the shot. Thankfully, one Bobcat fails to draw a charge, and the other two are just kind of standing in place, making it easy for Livingston to follow his shot.
2nd quarter, 11:42 - Livingston makes 12-foot shot
After a failed P&R with Udrih, Livingston resets on the left side of the lane, between the block and the elbow. Isolated against the much shorter Kemba Walker. One quick back-down dribble later, Livingston can smoothly spin towards the baseline and loft up an easy shot.
2nd quarter, 10:41 - Livingston makes 10-foot shot, draws shooting foul, makes 1 of 1 free throw
Running the same set as his last make, Livingston sets a pick for Udrih and gets the pass on the left side, this time at the free-throw line extended. This time, the taller Matt Carroll is defending, but Livingston backs him down anyway. A shake makes Carroll freeze for a second, giving Livingston enough time to turn towards the middle and set up for a shot. Realizing his error, Carroll closes out too hard, resulting in the foul. The free throw is an easy make.
2nd quarter, 9:37 - Livingston misses 9-foot shot
After two successful trips, the same set is used for a third time. Livingston sets a screen for Udrih, who passes it to Livingston with his back to the basket at the elbow. Matt Carroll is matched up again, but this time he doesn't let Livingston get to the spot he wants. Livingston turns baseline for his shot, and between the rushed release and Carroll's decent contest, the shot rims out.
2nd quarter, 7:50 - Larry Sanders makes dunk (assist from Livingston)
Drew Gooden finds Livingston wide open at the top of the key, and Livingston uses all the open space to make a move straight towards the basket. He moves left, taking Derrick Brown with him, then plants his foot and reverse-pivots to the right. This draws in Byron Mullens, who leaves Larry Sanders wide open underneath the basket. Had Mullens stayed put, Livingston would have had an easy look at the basket, but instead Sanders was able to do what he does best: dunk.
2nd quarter, 7:16 - Livingston makes 15-foot jump shot
After setting up with Andrew Bogut right behind him (but not knowing it), Livingston gives the ball up and cuts to the left block. He's followed by Kemba Walker, and both Bogut and Livingston notice the mismatch. Bogut feeds Livingston the ball, who takes a second to size up his man and wait for enough space to clear out between him and the basket. He then takes one quick dribble with his left hand and decides to spin baseline for his shot.
Livingston gets away with a very subtle - but very effective - push off with his right forearm to get space for his shot. The smaller Walker is still recovering when Livingston elevates, and makes a good effort to contest the shot. He's got no chance, though, and Livingston's shot goes in easily.
2nd quarter, 5:16 - Livingston makes 12-foot shot (assist from Bogut)
Ilyasova makes his patented hustle play to keep the ball alive and secure the rebound, and passes it to Livingston at half court. He moves to the basket, drawing Gerald Henderson as his defender, and sets up on the baseline off the left block. Bogut feeds him the ball and clears out, and Livingston starts backing down towards the middle of the floor.
As we've seen before, Livingston quickly pivots towards the baseline and elevates for the shot. The 6'4" Henderson is still grounded as Livingston is at the top of his release, making the shot even easier than the ones we saw earlier.
2nd quarter, 2:02 - Livingston misses 19-foot jump shot
Bogut draws a double team as he's posting up on the left block, and he passes out to a wide-open Livingston at the top of the key. Livingston's shot is smooth, but he lets his momentum carry him forward on the "jump" part of the shot, and he compensates by aiming short. He draws the inside of the front-right part of the rim, and the ball rims out. A good play, just poor execution from a historically below-average spot-up shooter.
It's important to note that, in the 2nd quarter, Livingston went 4-6 from the floor with 3 assists, 2 boards, 1 turnover, and 1 foul. That is a great contribution from your heretofore third-string point guard.
3rd quarter, 5:01 - Livingston draws shooting foul, makes 1 of 2 free throws
Livingston gets isolated on the left wing against Boris Diaw, and wisely tries to take him off the dribble. Diaw's defense is good enough to force Livingston into a jumper, but not good enough to avoid fouling him as he closes out. The first free throw is a bit long, but bounces through off the back rim anyway. The second shot is a tad longer, and misses the mark.
3rd quarter, 0:52 - Livingston misses 3-foot jump shot
Livingston is leading the break off a rebound with three other Bucks and four Bobcats, with Byron Mullens as the nearest defender. Livingston pulls up a bit, then dives for the rim. Mullens is far more equipped to defend a tall player than most of Livingston's previous opponents, and he contests the shot to force a bad miss.
4th quarter, 4:18 - Livingston makes dunk (assist from Jennings)
Jennings takes advantage of a seam in the Bobcats' defense and breaks towards the rim. He draws three defenders into his path, leaving Livingston wide open along the right baseline. With no one in his way, Livingston throws down the easy dunk. A great play by Jennings to set up the basket.
4th quarter, 3:39 - Andrew Bogut makes dunk (assist from Livingston)
Livingston gets isolated against Corey Maggette on the right baseline. A quick jab step is enough to force Maggette to jump, giving Livingston room to move to the basket. D.J. White excitedly rushes Livingston, leaving Bogut wide open for an easy dunk.
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We all knew that Livingston was an offensively limited player; his jump shot is the weakest part of his game. But his limited range and inconsistent shot mechanics don't hurt as much since he relies so heavily on his ability to drive and post up. He's clearly a skilled finisher and distributor, and if last night is any indication, he will be seriously considered for the role of 6th man and might draw attention away from other players (thus opening things up on offense).
If this is a regular outing for Livingston, the team's second unit will be very versatile on offense. A lineup with shooters and a shot-blocker would allow Livingston to explore all the different mismatches that will present themselves while he's on the floor. It's a shame we couldn't see his skills on display in a win.