Livingston starts, gets immediate test
Shaun Livingston was thrilled to get his first start in nearly 11 months - and just his second start since his horrific knee injury more than three years ago - but it probably felt like some sort of punishment. He was matched up Monday against arguably the best point guard going right now in Deron Williams and will get another all-star point guard on Tuesday in Chauncey Billups.
Although he had to adjust his mindset from coming off the bench for Randy Foye, Livingston didn't appear to be in awe of the situation early on Monday. He blocked Williams's shot twice in the first three minutes, with his first block leading to a fastbreak layup for Mike Miller. But Livingston didn't have many highlights after that, as he went without an assist for the first time in his short stint with the Wizards.
Williams, on the other hand, completely took over the game during a 16-minute span between the second quarter and third quarter, when he had 11 points and seven assists and the Jazz outscored the Wizards 48-19. "He makes their team go," Saunders said of Williams. "A guy that can push the ball offensively. Can make plays for other teammates. Has the ability to shoot threes. Has the ability to defend. Both him and Chauncey Billups are the two guys in our league that can really do that. He pushed up the tempo."
Williams finished with 17 points and 11 assists in just under 30 minutes, with the only thing slowing him down being a hard fall near the end of the third period that forced him to hobble off the court. Livingston scored just six points with three rebounds in 23 minutes and wishes he could've done more.
"It's a tough matchup," said Livingston, who had 18 points and eight assists against Orlando's Jameer Nelson on Saturday. "He's one of the toughest guards in the league, because of his size, his quickness. He was able to get guys open shots and get to the line. I don't feel like I was aggressive enough to make him work on the other end, where he could take trips off and come back on the offensive end and attack. I had some blocks early, led to some early fast breaks, but it's a 48-minute game. The best thing about this league, you've got a game tomorrow for redemption."
But Livingston has to search for redemption against Billups, who knows Saunders's offense inside and out, having run it efficiently for four seasons in Minnesota and Detroit. "We are going into stretches, tonight with [Williams] and [Tuesday], probably two of the most complete point guards in our league."
Livingston, on his second 10-day contract with the Wizards, is just getting his bearings again in this league. But he knows there is rarely a dropoff in competition from night to night. "It's tough, but that's part of the league," he said. "We're all given a job and a task and that's what I'm going to try to do and that's play better than I did tonight."
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