Cassell, Livingston are in sync
Would the Clippers finally get it together if Sam Cassell and Shaun Livingston started together?
That was a question for Coach Mike Dunleavy after Cassell and Livingston played in the same lineup often Monday night in the Clippers’ 100-90 victory over the New Orleans Hornets at the Ford Center.
Playing for the first time since Dec. 23, Cassell scored a game-high 31 points off the bench.
The team’s vocal leader -- sidelined for seven of the team’s previous eight games and nine overall recently because of a heel injury -- returned to the active lineup but did not play in the Clippers’ 86-74 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday at Philips Arena.
With Livingston and Cassell opening the second half in the backcourt, the Clippers outscored the Hornets, 51-39. The offense, often stagnant while Cassell was sidelined, seemed more efficient with the crafty veteran running things and making clutch jumpers.
Without as much pressure to score, Livingston focused on defense and led the Clippers with seven assists. Livingston became the starting point guard, in part because Cassell was injured, but Livingston said he’s not concerned about titles.
It’s about what’s best for the team, Livingston said.
“He’s a scoring option,” Livingston said. “We need him. We need Sam out there.”
Livingston has grown more comfortable as a starter recently, Dunleavy said. Barring injury, Livingston is expected to remain with the first unit.
Cassell, in his 14th season, has been a starter throughout his career, but Dunleavy said Cassell could be effective starting or coming off the bench.
“They can play together,” he said. “The good thing is that Shaun is getting more comfortable every day, as far as scoring the basketball. It’s obvious.... I predicted it. It’s there when you see him practicing and doing his drill work. The way you transfer practice to games is by just doing it, and then you get into a comfort zone.
“You get into a comfort zone to where you’re not worried about it if you do it enough. When you know you’re playing big minutes, or you’re going to get volume shots, you take what’s there and it just becomes more natural. You say to yourself, ‘I know the coaching staff considers this to be a good shot.’ You don’t think about it.”
Corey Maggette, who did not play Saturday against Atlanta, sat out another game because of a sore left foot.
Maggette suffered the injury at Orlando, Fla., the opening game of the trip.