Austin Rivers Returns, Sets Career-High Vs. Kings
LOS ANGELES – Austin Rivers turned a game he was questionable for into one of the best of his career.
After missing Thursday’s game with foot pain, Rivers returned Saturday against the Kings and delivered a career-high 28 points, more than doubling his highest scoring output since joining the Clippers.
“I was so bored in the locker room last game,” Rivers said. “If I can play, I’m going to play.”
Rivers knocked on wood while saying his foot pain is nothing serious and won’t require any surgery. He got a deep-tissue massage on the foot prior to Thursday’s game that his foot didn’t react well to, but he was able to bounce back two days later by going 11-of-19 from the floor and 5-of-9 from 3-point range in a career night.
“When you see guys play like (DeAndre Jordan) with that much energy, play that hard, you have no excuse but to do the same thing,” Rivers said.
It was Rivers, Jamal Crawford and the second unit that jumpstarted the Clippers in a 42-point second quarter in a victory Saturday against Sacramento. Rivers hadn’t scored more than 12 points in a game since his trade to the Clippers before breaking out Saturday, setting his career-high with 10 seconds remaining.
Despite what Austin Rivers was able to do offensively, it was how he played defensively that caught the eye of head coach Doc Rivers.
“I think his confidence has grown since he’s been here and that’s been good for him,” Doc Rivers said. “The guys have been so supportive, because they can see what he can do offensively. But I’m happy for him in the fact that he’s caught on a team with his defense.
“He just kind of let his offense come, and now it’s coming. Obviously tonight was a great night, but where he’s helped us the most is the other end. That’s probably been a great lesson for him, too.”
In addition to his 28 points, Austin Rivers also led the Clippers with three steals, while committing just one turnover himself.
Whether he was dunking, which he did to give the Clippers their first lead of the second quarter, or hitting threes, finishing with a team-leading five on the night, everything seemed to be on for Austin Rivers.
“He was just aggressive,” said Chris Paul. “He shot shots when they were there, played the right way, shared the ball. He can play. We’re not surprised at that.”
What was surprising was that he was able to perform that way despite the foot pain that kept him out Thursday. With Austin Rivers out Thursday, Crawford was forced to play point guard behind Paul.
Doc Rivers said he was glad to hear from head athletic trainer Jasen Powell that Austin would be all right, but he still may bring in another point guard so a situation like Thursday’s doesn’t happen again.
“We still may sign another guy, because we’re so thin at that position,” Doc Rivers said. “I don’t want Jamal playing that many minutes at that position, even though he was great the other night. We need Jamal later.”