Detroit — Isaiah Livers refuses to watch replays of himself getting hurt, especially when it’s an injury he can’t control.
Nine minutes into the first quarter of Tuesday’s loss to the Miami Heat, the second-year forward, who has dealt with multiple injuries through his first two years in the NBA, appeared to suffer another setback when he landed on Jaden Ivey’s foot after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt.
The awkward landing caused Livers to tweak his right ankle. He tried to walk off the pain, but he collapsed on the court and yelled in frustration. Somehow, he mustered up the will to walk to the free-throw line before nailing all three free throws in order to remain eligible to return to the game. After that, Livers was free to proceed to the locker room for treatment.
“The moment I came down, I knew. Damn,” Livers told The Detroit News. “My instant reaction was like, ‘I can’t catch a break.’”
After a series of tests and a taping job by the Pistons’ medical staff, Livers re-emerged from the locker room in the second quarter, and despite still feeling some pain, he managed to help his team cut a 16-point deficit to six by knocking down two 3-pointers in the final minutes of the period.
The Pistons were already shorthanded, without the services of six rotational players, so it was a valiant effort of playing through pain that Detroit needed to rally against the postseason-bound Heat. Pistons coach Dwane Casey applauded Livers’ effort to rebound quickly and still make an impact despite his discomfort.
“You turn your ankle like that, some guys are out a month,” Casey said. “I loved the way he bounced back from that. If something’s not hurt on your body right now, you’re not doing anything. I thought he hit some big shots in that one stretch to get us back in and I was really proud of how he bounced back.”
Livers is having a late-season surge since returning to the starting lineup on Feb. 27 in a loss at Charlotte. He connected on three 3-pointers in three of his first six games with the first unit and tied his previous career high with 17 points against the Portland Trail Blazers. He followed that up with a career-high 18 points and four steals in a loss to the Indiana Pacers on March 11.
He’s averaging 6.6 points on 35% from the 3-point line in 52 games this season after totaling 6.4 points on 42% from the 3-point line in 19 games as a rookie. He’s also taken strides in his shot variety, as he’s shown the ability to knock down mid-range jumpers, and he’s even had a few drives to the rim that have been eye-opening. His one-handed poster dunk on Toronto Raptors center Jakob Poeltl is a prime example of his sneaky athleticism.
Livers has missed 27 games this season due to right hip soreness, a right shoulder sprain and a left ankle sprain. It remains to be seen if he will miss Wednesday’s home finale against the Brooklyn Nets after his latest right ankle sprain. With three games left in the Pistons’ season, it would be understandable to rest and not give any room to re-aggravate it, but Livers wants to be on the floor with his teammates as they try to finish a season blemished by injuries on a strong note.
“I know how the professional teams don’t like it, especially our medical staff; they get a little worried, but I’m always going to be a guy that if nothing’s torn or broken, I’m always going to play, no matter what,” Livers said. “I’m going to do everything in my power, no matter what to get ready for this back-to-back (on Wednesday). I’m expecting it to be sore and painful in the morning but I’ll get up and start my rehab and get ready for the game. I’ll be ready.”