OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors went from being tied after the end of regulation to nearly covering the spread in overtime of Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and they have Shaun Livingston to thank.
Livingston — who played 18 minutes — didn’t do much in regulation. He gave quality breathers to Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, hit two field goals, pulled down two rebounds, and dished out two assists — nothing out of the ordinary.
Once the Warriors entered playoff overtime for the 13th time in franchise history, though, Livingston became just as important as any of Golden State’s four All-Stars. Livingston scored six of Golden State’s 17 points in the extra period, and provided a spark that helped the Warriors overcome 51 points from LeBron James.
Livingston was also in the middle of some of the game’s strangeness, which included a confused J.R. Smith at the end of regulation, a charge that was changed to a blocking foul on LeBron James, and a tussle in the final seconds of overtime.
“I use the term ‘awkward,'” Livingston said. “That was a strange game. A lot of ups and downs, but we were fortunate to come out with a win tonight.”
Livingston finished with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists, and started the extra period by cutting through the lane and getting open for a behind-the-head Stephen Curry pass to make it 114-107. After a James miss on the left elbow, Livingston pulled down a rebound with 2:30 to go, and after a give-and-go with Draymond Green, cut through the lane for a lay-up.
On Golden State’s next possession, Livingston found himself in the paint, surrounded by Cavaliers, and then found Green for three — his second of the game, and his fourth since the start of the Western Conference Finals.
With 2.6 seconds to go in overtime, Tristan Thompson ran into Livingston’s right hip and hooked his right arm after he shot a pull-up jumper on the right wing. Afterwards, traded words with Green. Thompson shoved the basketball in Green’s face, and the two tussled.
“I contested a shot that shouldn’t have been taken,” Thompson said. “I mean, it’s like the unspoken rule in the NBA: If you’re up by 10 or 11 with about 20 seconds left, you don’t take that shot. I made the contest, and next thing I know, I was being kicked out for making a contest that we learn during training camp. I don’t know why I got thrown out.”
“We don’t ever take the turnover,” Livingston said. “We finish the game out. That’s just how we play. That’s no disrespect to any team, whether it’s preseason or the Finals. Kevin threw me the ballin my sweet spot, the clock was running down, so I took my shot.”
Green exhorted the crowd to get loud, and as the officials discussed what penalty to assess — a flagrant 2 — Green playfully grabbed Livingston, who managed a bemused smile. Thompson was ejected, prompting an early celebration from the fans, before Livingston hit both of his free throws to ice the 124-114 win. Livingston finished 4-for-4 from the field on the night.