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Cassell not a starter now, but he knows how to finish

Times Staff Writer

It appears the torch has been passed from Sam Cassell to Shaun Livingston, at least in Coach Mike Dunleavy’s mind.

Livingston continued to impress at times with the first unit in Saturday’s 89-82 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum.

The third-year player had a game-high nine assists and only one turnover as the Clippers got their first road victory in eight games.

“That was a great number,” Dunleavy said of Livingston’s assists-to-turnover ratio. “And there were a couple of assists we missed on finishes.”

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But Cassell was in the game in the fourth quarter when the Clippers were trying to finish off the Grizzlies; making plays down the stretch in close victories is something the 14-year veteran still does better than most in the NBA.

“My role has changed, it’s a little different out here, and I understand that,” Cassell said. “But I told Mike that I’m going to do what I have to do to make this team successful. If it’s coming off the bench, OK, whatever.

“Shaun starts the games. I know how to finish games off.... Sometimes guys get tight and they don’t do what they’re supposed to do, but that’s how I was taught.

“I was taught by Clyde Drexler that if you get open, you take your shot. You make free throws, you don’t turn the ball over and you make open shots. You’ll usually win when you do that.”

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Cassell was on the court early in the fourth quarter as the Clippers built their biggest lead of 11 points. And after the Grizzlies used a 6-0 spurt to pull to within 71-66, Cassell scored six of the Clippers’ next 11 points.

In addition to clutch shooting, Cassell is still the Clippers’ vocal leader. That won’t change either, he said.

“Sometimes I get on my teammates a little too much, but I just want them to have the passion I have,” he said. “Winning is a habit, and so is losing. This team has to realize that we’re a team people are chasing. Beating us is a big win.

“No one is going to feel sorry for you when they do that, not after what we accomplished last year. That’s what I want everybody to understand.

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“It’s about concentration. It’s about understanding what you do and how you do it on the basketball court. It’s just that simple.”

jason.reid@latimes.com


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