With the Wizards getting routed at home by 20 points against Indiana, an exasperated Coach Randy Wittman called on Chris Singleton and Shaun Livingston. Not only did Wittman get a duo eager for some action, Singleton and Livingston were prepared to play with a purpose.
“Me and Shaun were checking in together, like, ‘We’re going to bring us back,’ ” Singleton said a day later.
And it didn’t take long for them to make a difference. Livingston quickly found rookie Bradley Beal for a three-pointer that ignited a 16-0 run that woke up a dormant crowd and turned a laugher into a terse contest that wasn’t decided until the final minute. But the Wizards still lost their ninth game in a row, 96-89.
“That’s the NBA. That’s professional sports. A 20-point lead is really like a four-point lead. Any given night, teams can come back,” Livingston said. “But we don’t want to keep digging ourselves that hole. We obviously know we have to play better. We have to start better, come out halftime better. We have to finish better. That’s a lot of things, that we have to do better.”
Wittman would like to see his players deliver more consistent individual performances, but he had to at least be encouraged by what he saw from Livingston in the post, Bradley Beal on the wing and Singleton all over the place defensively.
In his second game since being signed last week, the 6-foot-7 Livingston had 10 points and four assists and used his height and court vision to find open looks for his teammates, especially Beal.
“That’s the good thing about this team. We always have guys that lift us up,” Beal said.
Beal scored 17 of his 18 points in the final 17 minutes, all while sharing the floor with Livingston, who empathized with the rookies’ struggles. All three of Beal’s three-pointers came from Livingston dishes.
“He can play,” Livingston said of Beal. “From what I’ve seen, it’s been hard for him. The shots that he’s getting, he’s working, exerting a lot of effort. I think that’s the learning process of getting in the flow of the game and hopefully I can help with that. Get him some easy looks. Get him in transition looks. So he can get in the flow of the game and he doesn’t have force shots up and doesn’t have to work so hard.”
Singleton scored seven points in the second half, getting the Wizards within 86-85 when he got fouled while hitting a pull-up jumper over Pacers forward Sam Young. He credited Livingston for opening up the floor.
“He’s leader. A big point guard, a 6-7 point guard,” Singleton said. “We can obviously put him in the post. There are a lot of small guards out there. We can take advantage of his skills set… I just rode off him. That group went in there and got stops. We changed the game around in key moments in the game and again, we couldn’t get over the hump.”
Livingston hasn’t been with the team very long, but he is fully aware of how this season has played out thus far for his new teammates. “Again it continues to come down to the little things,” Livingston said. “The little things are what wins ballgames. The loose balls, offensive rebounds. It’s just the will to win. Until we break through the door, we’re going to be fighting.”
Livingston is averaging 7.0 points and 2.5 assists in his first two games as he continues to find his wind after not playing for two weeks. Wittman wasn’t certain that he’d start him after the game, saying, “If I had that answer right now, I’d be a genius.”
Singleton admitted that not having a set rotation has been tough for the players, but he added that they have created a difficult situation for Wittman. “I see him struggling, because no one has been consistent all year,” he said. “Everybody has had flashes of greatness, but no one has been there every single game.”
Singleton would like to get another chance on Wednesday against the Hawks for a few reasons: He’ll be home in Atlanta and he’ll turn 23. “I’m just trying to win,” Singleton said. “That’ll be a good birthday.”