Austin Rivers had been shooting like a rookie. In a five-game stretch, Rivers, a rookie guard for the New Orleans Hornets, made just one basket: a free throw. He was 0 for 9 from the field.
The way Rivers walks, smiles, and interacts with NBA veterans with overflowing confidence, it can be easy to forget that he’s only 20 years old. And until Wednesday, his father, Celtics coach Doc Rivers, had never seen him play an NBA game in person.
Doc Rivers saw every minute Austin played during the Hornets’ 90-78 win over the Celtics on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
At one point, Doc paced the Celtics bench looking for his clipboard. He found it and reached to draw something. Suddenly he stopped and turned his attention to the court.
Austin was at the free throw line.
“I don’t understand that kind of pressure,” said Hornets coach Monty Williams. “I’m sure he hadn’t slept in about three or four days. That’s a tough one, playing against your dad.”
It was just the fourth coach-against-son matchup in NBA history. The son won this one.
Austin finished 3 of 6 from the floor and 2 for 4 from the free throw line. He scored 8 points, more than he scored in his last seven games combined. He dished out one assist and didn’t turn the ball over in 23 minutes, the first time he hadn’t committed a turnover in four games.
That wasn’t the best part. The best part was that his father was there to watch.
“I love him,” Austin said after the game.
It might be hard to think of Austin Rivers as a normal kid who would getan extra sense of comfort from having his father at his basketball game.
But he still thinks of himself as just that: A kid.
“Yeah I mean, I just turned 20,” he said. “I look at all my friends — they text me that they’re going to college prom and I’m like, ‘Man, I’m playing with grown men.’
“My teammates have families. Me and [Anthony Davis] are out here fresh out of high school a year and a half ago.”
Rivers entered Wednesday’s game with 4:19 left in the first quarter and scored his first point on a drive through the lane where he drained a fade-away jumper off the glass.
Doc started yelling.
“The one time I was about to say something and I didn’t say it,” Doc said. “I caught myself. I forgot he was on the other team.
“He made the layup in front of our bench . . . I’m yelling at my guy for letting him get to the basket.”
With time winding down in the third quarter, Austin had two chances to do what he might be best at: playing one-on-one.
“That’s what he’s done his whole life,” said Williams.
When Paul Pierce set up with the ball at the top of the key, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, and Courtney Lee stood still near the Celtics bench. Everyone on the court anticipated Pierce and Rivers ready for an isolation showdown.
“[Pierce] goes to me, ‘This is your welcome to the league moment,’ ” Rivers said.
Pierce faked right, drove left, turned and knocked down a fadeaway jumper.
Immediately afterward, Rivers took the ball and drove down the court, beating Pierce to his left and forcing him to commit a foul with 0.4 seconds left on the clock.
Pierce eventually fouled out of the game.
After Rivers finished postgame interviews, he said he was rushing over to his father’s office to gloat.
“I’m going to tell him this is my house now,” Austin said. “No, just kidding. I can’t do that. I’m not going to say anything too stupid. At the end of the day he has a lot more credentials. I don’t have nearly half of what he’s done. This is just one little moment for me.
“I just want him to always do well. Because I love him.”