Isaiah Livers steps outside ‘3-and-D’ Detroit Pistons role, shows he has more in his bag

Detroit Free Press

No other player on the Detroit Pistons’ roster fits the “3-and-D” archetype better than Isaiah Livers.

More than three-fourths of Livers’ shots this season — 76.5%, according to NBA Stats — have come from behind-the-arc. It’s the highest share of 3-pointers per field goals attempted on the team, and the sharpshooter has knocked down 36.6%.

Livers is also the Pistons’ best team defender. He organizes teammates, makes timely rotations and effort plays, and can hold his own in one-on-one situations.

Livers had his best all-around game of the season Monday in a 110-104 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Little Caesars Arena, leading the Pistons and tying his career-high with 17 points. But in a twist, he made more shots at the rim than he did from 3. The Blazers made a point to run Livers off the line, and he adjusted by showcasing his ability to handle the ball and get into the paint.

He finished the night 7-for-12 and 3-for-8 from 3. Four of his buckets were layups or dunks. The coaching staff has challenged Livers to show off more of his game and be more aggressive when he has space between the 3-point line and basket. He answered the challenge Monday.

“When you get the shooter claim, they think all you’re going to do is sit there and shoot the ball,” Livers said after the game. “I have a lot more to my game that I’m going to continue to show in these last 20, 15 games left. Coach (Dwane Casey) and everybody encourages me, so once you have the green light to shoot or put it on the deck, the world is yours.”

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Livers, 24, is one of Detroit’s best shooters in his second season out of Michigan, but has been efficient at the rim as well. Only 10% of his shots have come there this season, ranking in the 10th percentile among forwards, according to Cleaning The Glass. But he’s in the 88th percentile in efficiency, making 73% at the rim — but that’s on a very small sample size at 11-for-15.

It’s a skill both he and the coaching staff believe he can sustain and showcase. After all, teams aren’t going to stop running him off the 3-point line.

“I thought he did a good job tonight of attacking the rim when they closed out short to him,” Casey said after the Pistons’ eighth straight loss gave them the NBA’s worst record at 15-50. “He attacked their feet, got to the rim and made a play. That’s the combination he has to have, whether it’s taking the 3 or if they close out, attack their feet with your ball-handling ability, which he did tonight, and finish at the rim. I thought Livers had one of his better games tonight, both offensively and defensively.”

Livers’ first bucket was a hint. He found himself open in the left corner, and waited for Blazers guard Nassir Little to recover, before pump faking, causing Little to jump, driving baseline and finishing a two-handed dunk.

Midway through the second quarter, he caught the ball on the left wing and jabbed slightly right before driving left and using his shoulder to create space and complete a right-handed layup. Early in the third, he drove and dumped the ball off to James Wiseman for his second assist of the night. A few possessions later, he found an open lane in transition, receiving a bounce pass from Ivey and finishing a layup through two Portland defenders.

His final field goal of the night was another transition bucket courtesy of Ivey, gathering right after receiving the pass and gliding for a left-handed layup. Livers was a fastbreak threat and also showed comfort creating his own space in half-court situations.

“That’s game flow,” Livers said. “If I can have every open 3, or open shot, I’m going to take it every time. If they’re going to make an effort, there are other things I can do. I can attack, pull up or just create for my team, most importantly.”

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It was also one of his best defensive performances of the season. Damian Lillard was Livers’ primary assignment. While the superstar guard finished with a triple double (31 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists), he was held to 10 points on 2-for-12 shooting in the second half after knocking down 8-for-16 in the first half. Lillard started hot, finishing the opening period with 16 points. The improvement was a team effort, but it started with Livers.

The Pistons may need to lean on Livers, who played a team-high 38 minutes and 57 seconds, more heavily as the season winds down. They lacked depth at forward Monday, with Bojan Bogdanovic and Isaiah Stewart in street clothes. Hamidou Diallo tweaked his ankle during the fourth quarter and could also potentially miss time.

With 17 games remaining and the depth chart hobbled, his outburst against the Blazers was well-timed.

“I thought he did an excellent job of being aggressive, taking his open shots,” Casey said.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

Catch our podcast “The Pistons Pulse” every Tuesday morning at 5 and on demand on or wherever you listen to podcasts. See all of our podcasts and daily voice briefings at

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