Category Archives: Duke in the NBA

Duke in the NBA Playoffs: Rivers Regresses to Mean, Redick has Solid Night Shooting

A recap of how former Duke players did in last night’s NBA Playoffs


Yesterday I wrote about Clippers guard Austin Rivers’ welcome-to-the-NBA game on Sunday afternoon.  He sliced up a Spurs team which finished 4th in Team Defensive Efficiency for 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting.  His importance to the team was highlighted by his +/- of “plus 7,” which was third on the team behind Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.  I wondered whether this performance would springboard Rivers towards more consistent play or if it would fall as an outlier.  Rivers then backed up his Sunday performance with a regression to the mean on Tuesday.  He was far less aggressive in taking only four shots, two of which could easily be labeled as highly questionable (including a guarded heave from 3 at the start of a possession for no apparent reason.)  In 12 minutes of play, Rivers was underwhelming, shooting 1 of 4 from the field and failing to convert on either of his free throw attempts.  There was one highlight for him on the night though, as he caught a pass on the perimeter with 2.5 seconds left in the third, made a quick move around San Antonio defender Danny Green and banked home a long two-pointer at the buzzer:

This shot tied the game at 82 heading into the fourth, and was pretty much the only sound heard from Rivers all night long.  It seemed that Rivers got a little caught up in Sunday’s performance and tried to force the issue more than the game was allowing.  While he is at his best when he is cutting to the rim and trying to make his own shot, he seemed far too jittery and anxious last night to be effective.  I look for a happy medium between his Game 4 and Game 5 performances on Thursday night in Game 6.


Rivers’ Clippers teammate JJ Redick had a solid outing Tuesday night against the Spurs.  While JJ’s jumpshot has been somewhat erratic over the last month or so, he got things going in the right direction again in Game 5.  Redick shot 6 for 10 on the night, with all 10 attempts coming from inside the 3-point line.  He hit a couple shots in consecutive possessions during a pivotal stretch where it looked like San Antonio might grab all of LA’s momentum away.

There were two things that I would have liked to see go differently last night for Redick and the Clips.  First, he was used ONLY as a decoy during the final 6-8 minutes of the game.  Doc Rivers was drawing up plays that called for Redick to set up camp in the corner and wait for a pass.  Redick has shown since his days at Duke that he is lethal without the ball in his hands.  He is adept in brushing off defenders and creating space for a jumper before a teammate’s pass makes it to his hands.  Using him the way Doc did towards the end of the game has become all too common for the Clippers, and is something that needs to change.  Second qualm with Redick’s night: he fouled out.  No matter whether the coach was using him correctly or not, Redick needed to be available for LA at the end of the game in the off chance Doc wanted to draw up a play for him during the final minutes.  Even if the play hadn’t been drawn up for Redick, the respect his 3-point abilities command would have been something San Antonio could have used to open up a shot for someone else.


Duke in the NBA Playoffs: Austin Rivers’ Breakout Performance

Is Los Angeles Clippers head coach/GM Doc Rivers’ gamble starting to pay off?  Rivers’ son Austin, whom he traded for earlier this season, was a steadying flash of offense on Sunday in the Clippers’ pivotal Game 4 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, an afternoon that marked the (as of now) high point of Austin’s NBA career.  Fresh off the heels of a Game 3 blowout loss that saw Austin make some solid plays in fourth quarter garbage time, the backup guard came off the bench to provide an offensive spark in Game 4.  After not taking a shot in one minute of first quarter action, Austin shot 7 for 8 from the field over the final three quarters, and threw in a couple of “and-ones” for good measure.  Take a look at this finish at the rim against Tim Duncan in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter:

By the time the clock hit triple zeroes Austin had tallied 17 points, the fourth-highest total of his 45 games in a Clippers uniform this season.  His ability to create his own shot was on display Sunday, as he got off several good looks from within fifteen feet, including a seven-footer off the glass while drawing a foul on San Antonio’s Patty Mills.  His constant drives to the basket seemed almost effortless, and assuredly weren’t something the Spurs expected to see much of.  It wasn’t just the offense, as Austin deflected no fewer than three San Antonio passes, two of which led to steals.  This was not only the biggest moment, but also the biggest stage, of the 22-year-old’s young career.

None of this was lost on LA’s leader and All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who led his teammates in a post game round of applause for the young guard.  “Game ball goes to Austin Rivers,” Paul said.  “This is his first playoffs.  What he did out there, it really just motivated our team.  It’s a hell of a game by Austin.”

The key for Austin now will be sustaining this level of play, and thus the ever-growing confidence that his teammates have in him.  He has shown small flashes on offense during his two years in the league, but his game lacks consistency.  When he decides to put his head down and charge towards the rack, as he did on Sunday, he can make plays for himself as well as loosen up the defense for LA’s outside shooters.

After a huge Game 4 win, the Clippers return home to face the Spurs in tonight’s Game 5.  While it was just the start for Austin in proving that he can be a trustworthy cog in the Clippers’ ship, Sunday afternoon’s performance was nonetheless necessary.  More playoff performances like that one can go a long way in proving his father’s gamble (trading away talented 2014 first-round-pick Reggie Bullock), was one worth taking.