May 8, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) is greeted at the bench by head coach Doc Rivers against the Houston Rockets during the second half in game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs. at Staples Center.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Doc Rivers spares no one on the Clippers, including son Austin. So when the young guard had the biggest game of his young career, it might have been heartwarming to everyone else, but it was just business to the only coach-father and son duo in NBA history.
Austin Rivers scored 15 of his 25 points in the third quarter Friday night, helping the Los Angeles Clippers blow out the Houston Rockets 124-99 and take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
"I’m a dad and you enjoy it for a moment," the elder Rivers said Saturday.
But that moment was fleeting for a coach trying to push the Clippers to an NBA championship, something that once seemed out of reach for a franchise that was long considered to be the laughingstock of the league.
"This is about our team," Doc Rivers said. "This is not a family moment."
If he sounds harsh, it’s because he is. Rivers subjects his son to the same withering criticism he doles out to superstars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
"It’s got to be an odd dynamic to be coach, dad, son, all that," Paul said. "Doc is real hard on him."
It’s been that way since Austin was a 5-year-old playing checkers with his dad, who refused to let him win. Now 22, he’s three years out of Duke and trying to make a name in the same league where his old man starred as a player before becoming a coach and guiding the Celtics to the 2008 NBA championship.
"He has had the spotlight on him since he was a kid," DeAndre Jordan said. "I am pretty sure it’s tough, but when Austin steps between the lines, he’s a basketball player. It doesn’t matter what the relationship is."
Austin arrived in January, having been traded by New Orleans to the Celtics, who immediately dealt him to the Clippers. Questions of nepotism arose, with the younger Rivers assuring everyone that his dad would never play him over someone else because of family ties.
"He wanted me to come over here because he thought I could help and I wanted to come here because I felt like I could help," Austin said.
The third of four sports-playing children, Austin has reached the highest level among his siblings. Older brother Jeremiah played basketball in college and the D-League; sister Callie played volleyball at Florida; and youngest brother Spencer plays basketball at UC Irvine. The siblings were on hand Friday night as they often are at Staples Center.
Rivers took over in the third quarter, sparking a decisive 20-3 run that put the game away. His offense came the way his dad likes it, through defensive stops and then attacking the basket at full speed. Rivers shot 75 percent in the quarter, connecting on 6 of 8 shots as fans chanted his name and gave him a standing ovation when he came out to get some rest early in the fourth.
"I just really put a lot of work in, more than I ever have in my life, and I just came into this season with a lot of confidence through my hard work," he said.
Father and son had already moved on a day later, getting ready to face Houston in Game 4 on Sunday. They share a similar philosophy of never getting too high or too low, knowing the next bad game could be right around the corner.
"I know it sounds stark," Doc said, "but that’s really where I am mentally with all this because I think you have to be."