Clippers guard Austin Rivers drives to the basket against the Kings on Friday night. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
No wonder Austin Rivers was so hot Friday night in Sacramento, where the Clippers guard made nine of 15 shots and scored 24 points in the team’s victory over the Kings.
The Clippers guard was running a temperature of 101 degrees Coach Doc Rivers said, the first in a series of flu-like symptoms that worsened Saturday and sidelined Rivers for Sunday’s game.
Rivers has been more assertive of late, slashing to the basket to score a season-high 28 points and pass out seven assists Wednesday against Memphis and following that with his strong game at Sacramento.
With Blake Griffin undergoing right-knee surgery Dec. 20 and Chris Paul sitting out seven of eight games because of a left-hamstring injury, Rivers has made 10 starts since Dec. 14.
Doc Rivers has adjusted his lineups based on matchups, but his son’s recent play has made it more difficult for Doc to justify starting Austin, who is averaging 10.8 points a game, on the bench.
“Obviously, he’s been good offensively,” Doc Rivers said. “It’s all the other things, the rebounds, assists, defense, steals, that have been great for us, even when he’s not playing the way he’s playing offensively.
“From a staff point of view, they would not like to start him every night, but every time I think about going in another direction, they want to keep him.”
Go big or go home
After chasing Memphis center Marc Gasol, who made two of four three-point shots and took several other long-range shots Wednesday, and Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins, who made three of eight three-point shots Saturday, around the perimeter for two straight games, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan was happy to face Miami stay-at-home center Hassan Whiteside on Sunday.
“I don’t think any center is comfortable doing that.” Rivers said. “Five years ago, the fours [power forwards] started shooting threes, and it made all the fours uncomfortable. Then everybody got used to it. Now, we’re starting to get these darn fives [centers] shooting threes, and that makes your defense really uncomfortable, especially the bigs.
“Guys like Whiteside and DeAndre, they don’t want go out there and guard guys shooting threes, but they have to because that’s their man. And it also takes a shot-blocker away from the rim. So, if you have a young 7-footer in your house, you should teach him to shoot threes.”
Tempers flared late in the third quarter when Clippers guard J.J. Redick was elbowed in the back of the head by guard Dion Waiters. After a replay review, officials hit Waiters with a Flagrant II foul and ejected him with 3 minutes 9 seconds left in the quarter.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Redick said. “I was boxing him out, and he elbowed me in the head. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not. He said it wasn’t intentional.”
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