Family affair: Rivers clan to clash when Celtics see Hornets

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Family affair: Rivers clan to clash when Celtics see Hornets

WALTHAM As a high school freshman, Austin Rivers did the seemingly unthinkable -- he beat his father, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, in a game of 1-on-1.

"He beat me bad," the elder Rivers recalled. "He beat me and then I played him one more time because I thought it was a fluke. He got me again. That was it."

The two have never faced off in a game since, something that will change tomorrow night when Doc Rivers and the Celtics host his son Austin and the New Orleans Hornets in what will be the first time this father-son combo have been on opposite sides of the floor since, well, the day Austin beat him.

But this is so, so different.

Aside from the fact that Doc will be coaching and not playing, the stakes are significantly higher for both. Doc is trying to lead the C's to a seventh straight win, which would put them four games over .500 for the first time this season.

And Austin, who has been up and down all season, could use a big game to not only help his team but also provide a much-needed boost of confidence.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy Jr. knows all too well what Austin Rivers is going through right now.

Dunleavy, a former Duke player who was a lottery pick, just like Austin, has faced off against teams coached by his dad.

His advice?

"Play your game, and play to win," Dunleavy Jr. told CSNNE.com in a phone interview. "It's not easy, obviously. But you need to try and approach it as if it's just another game, but knowing it really isn't.

"At the end of the day, he's still going to be your dad and you're going to be his son," Dunleavy Jr. added. "But you both want to win the game, too."

Although it is a different dynamic, Celtics center Jason Collins knows a thing or two about facing a family member.

The 7-foot veteran has had a number of battles against his twin brother Jarron in the NBA.

"First it starts with ticket requests and all the family stuff you have to get out of the way," Collins told CSNNE.com. "The first game Jarron and I played against each other, a lot of family was in town."

The biggest challenge for them, Collins said, was figuring out who to root for.

"Obviously they want us to both do well," Collins said. "But my parents had a system where they would root for whichever of us was playing for the home team."

Collins doesn't remember much from the game other than the experience of being out there competing against someone who for so many years has literally been there throughout your journey as a young child into an NBA player.

"We have a lot of really cool pictures of us on the court and stuff like that," Collins said. "For Doc, it's obviously going to be special."

The uniqueness of facing his son is not lost on Doc Rivers' players or his coaching staff.

"I just thought they were way too nice in the scouting report today," quipped Doc Rivers who added, "It's a strange thing. As a father, it's nice to see him. The only drawback of him being in the NBA is I haven't been to a game. And I miss that a little bit, to be honest. But other than that, it's really cool."

Especially for the Rivers family, most -- if not all -- of whom Doc Rivers expects will be rooting for Austin instead of him.

"When Austin's not playing, they're Celtics fans," said Doc Rivers. "When Austin is playing, they're Hornets fans or Austin fans for sure."

Even though Doc has had years to prepare for this day, there are those within the C's organization who saw Austin's promise well before his father.

When the Celtics hired Doc in 2004, Austin, then in grade school, would often come up to the Celtics practice facility and shoot around before and sometimes after practice.

Doc Rivers recalls Danny Ainge telling him even at that age that Austin had the makings of a future NBA player.

"Danny reminds me of that quite a bit, as he should," Doc Rivers said.

As Austin got older, his game -- and confidence -- continued to blossom in part because of his interaction with Celtics players such as Paul Pierce.

Pierce recalls playing Austin in a game of 1-on-1 that was a lot closer than Pierce expected.

"I took him lightly," Pierce said. "That's why."

Still, the 10th grader showed Pierce more than enough to convince the Truth that someday he just might have to face Austin in a real game -- an NBA game.

"I went upstairs (after the 1-on-1 game) and told Doc, 'you got an NBA player right there,'" Pierce recalled.

What stood out to Pierce was Austin's confidence, something that college basketball fans saw often during his one season at Duke.

"He had a lot of confidence," Pierce said. "You just saw the things that you see in current NBA players, you see that he had a lot of that in him."

Like Austin, Pierce also spent time as a high school baller playing against college and pro players in Los Angeles.

The Engelwood, Calif. native doesn't hesitate in speaking about how those games did wonders for making him feel as though he could play against anyone.

"You want to try and go out and prove something," Pierce said. "I did have a chance to play against NBA guys when I was in high school. You wanted to show that you were capable of just hanging with them. If you play well, I think it really gives you a confidence booster."

Pierce added, "I became a more confident player. I definitely wasn't wide-eyed. The only player I was probably wide-eyed against was playing against Magic (Johnson). But I was a pretty good athlete as a senior, so I knew athletically I was close. When I made shots, it gave me confidence."

Like any father, Doc wants to see his son do well . . . but not too well on Wednesday night.

"He can have a lot of good games," Doc said. "He can have 80 good games this year. But there's two that I don't really need him to play that well."

New Orleans plays at Philadelphia tonight so Austin will not get into town until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

At some point the two will sit down and chat before the game, although it probably won't have much if anything to do with Wednesday night's game.

As much as Doc wants to win every game, this game won't have any affect on the pride he feels in Austin living out his dream -- the kind of pride any father would feel at a child achieving what they aspired to become.

"He's my son. I talk to him all the time; we talk every day," Doc Rivers said. "He's going to be my son during the game, after the game, before the game, none of that is going to change."

Said Dunleavy: "It's kind of weird in some ways. I mean, beating dad in the backyard is one thing. But playing against the team he coaches, in the NBA, that's totally different. But it really is an honor. Fathers coaching against their sons in the NBA doesn't happen a lot. So when it does, it's pretty cool. Because you know both of you want to win, but at the end of the day, he's still your dad and he's going to be proud of you no matter what happens in the game."

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

Celtics force overtime, come up short in 127-123 loss to Blazers

BOSTON – For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics ran into a team that played with a greater sense of desperation.

And the result was yet another defeat as the Portland Trail Blazers, playing their second game in less than 24 hours, were able to get off their losing skid with a 127-123 overtime win over the Celtics.

Boston (26-17) has now lost back-to-back games at home, while the Blazers (19-27) snapped a four-game losing streak.

In the extra session, Portland jumped out to a 117-113 lead only for Boston’s Al Horford scoring on a bank-shot in the paint and Thomas draining a go-ahead 3-pointer for Boston.

Portland regained the lead when Al-Farouq Aminu made a pair of free throws with 59.3 seconds to play to make it a 119-118 game.

Boston soon fell behind 122-118, but a pair of Thomas free throws with 44.8 seconds to play made it a two-point game.

Mason Plumlee scored with 24 seconds to play in overtime, and an Al Horford miss – rebounded by Plumlee who was then fouled by Horford – essentially put the game away with 13.5 seconds to play.

Boston found themselves down late in the fourth quarter and seemingly headed towards defeat, only to get an unexpected lift in the final seconds from Terry Rozier.

Trailing by three points late in the fourth, Boston had one last chance to force overtime so who did they turn to?

If you were thinking Thomas which is what the Blazers and most fans were thinking, you would have been dead wrong.

The fourth quarter may be Thomas’ time to shine, but at that point in the game it was Rozier’s moment as he drained a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left that ultimately forced overtime. He finished with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists off the bench.

The Blazers came into the game with the kind of potent scoring punch in the backcourt that strikes the fear into the heart of any defense, let alone one that has been as up and down as the Boston Celtics this season.

For most of the game, Portland’s 1-2 punch of Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (35 points) lived up to the lofty billing as they combined for 63 points.

McCollum and Lillard both did their share of damage down the stretch, but it was their bench – specifically Meyers Leonard – whose play kept Portland in the game early on.

He finished with 17 points off the bench.

Boston led 65-56 at the half, but soon found itself in a 67-all game after McCollum made the second of two free throws.

But Boston countered with a put-back basket by Kelly Olynyk and a 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas to push Boston’s lead to 72-67.

Once again the Blazers fought back and eventually took the lead 74-72 on a powerful put-back dunk by Haverill (Mass.) native Noah Vonleh.

Brad Stevens had seen enough of his team getting pushed around, as he called a time-out with 5:31 to play in the quarter.

It didn’t help as Portland continued to bully their way around the rim for second and third-shot opportunities with their lead peaking at 78-72 following a put-back basket by  Plumlee.

But the Celtics responded with a 7-2 spurt capped off by an end-to-end, driving lay-up by Rozier that cut Portland’s lead to 80-79 with 2:44 to play in the quarter. Boston continued to be within striking distance as the third quarter ended with the Celtics trailing 88-86.