Family mattersMORE: The Francona years


Family mattersMORE: The Francona years

From the moment Austin Rivers first arrived on this country's basketball radar, there's been speculation about him one day playing for his father. And in the hours leading up to last summer's draft, a report surfaced that Celtics were in the process of trying to make that dream a reality.

Of course, it never happened. Austin went to the Hornets at No. 10; the Celtics had to "settle" for Jared Sullinger at No. 21. And tonight at the Garden, both Riverseses face the alternate reality of competing against family Father vs. Son on basketball's biggest stage.

But just for one second, let's go back to last summer, and the question we all spent far too much time discussing: Is it a bad idea for Doc to coach his son?

In other words, would the pair be able to separate family and basketball? Would Doc be able to strap on the blinders and treat Austin the same way he did Jeff Green, Avery Bradley or anyone else on the team? Would Austin be able to see Doc as a coach between the lines and a father outside the gym?

Or was it a recipe for disaster?

A lot of people said yes.

But I wasn't one of them.

I just have to much respect for Doc Rivers as a coach and a competitor to ever think he'd put his son before the team; any team, but especially the Celtics. Bring on Austin, I said. Everything will be fine. When it comes to basketball, the team will always be Doc's priority.

And tonight, he has a chance to prove me right.


By getting in Austin's head.

Honestly, can you imagine how easy it will be for Pops to take Austin out of his game tonight?

First of all, the kid's struggling big time to begin with. Of the Top 10 picks in last year's draft, only the Kings' Thomas Robinson (4.9) is averaging fewer than Rivers' 6.2 points a game. No one's shooting worse than Rivers' .328 from the field. He's also the only Top 10 pick currently posting a negative Win Share.

Combine that with the pressure of playing against Dad in Boston, and the 20-year-old rookie will be a basket case. And there's no one in the world who knows how to push Austin Rivers' buttons and trigger certain emotions like dear old dad.

I'm not saying it should be anything flagrant either. I'm not asking him to talk trash, at least not in the classic sense. He should just be subtle.

For instance, Austin draws a foul and goes to the line. He's going through his routine, getting ready to shoot, when suddenly Doc yells: "Keep your elbow in!"

The kid will be done for. He won't know what to think. There's no way that shot's going in.

Meanwhile, Doc will prove once and for all where his basketball loyalties lie, and set the wheels in motion on Austin's eventual Celtics debut.

Come on, you know it's coming.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Coaches in all sports will tell you that winning is not easy.
Making the Celtics’ 16-game winning streak even more impressive is that a number of the victories have involved Boston turning to some unlikely sources of production.


And that has provided a glimpse into a franchise that’s getting the best of both worlds: quality play from its core group while developing reserves who have contributed to the team reeling off 16 straight wins in a variety of ways.
Because coach Brad Stevens has gone deeper into his bench this season than past years, it has created a roster with minutes more evenly distributed and with that, less wear and tear on the bodies of key players.
And while this team is led by Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, there has been at least one other Celtic to emerge as a top-three performer every night...and often it’s not the same player.
“Much more unpredictable now,” a league executive texted to NBC Sports Boston. “That number three guy, is it [Jaylen] Brown? [Jayson] Tatum? Sometimes it’s Marcus [Smart]. You don’t know who it’s going to be because a lot of times, I don’t think they [Celtics] know who it will be. It’s why they’re so good, man.”
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game in Miami with the Celtics trying to push their winning streak to 17:

It’s one thing for the home crowd to get into the ‘M-V-P’ chants when you’re at the free-throw line. But it’s a completely different matter when those same cheers are being heard on the road. That’s where Irving was following the 110-102 overtime win at Dallas, a game in which Irving dropped 47 points, 10 in overtime. It’ll be interesting to see if another strong game by Irving will lead to another serenading of ‘M-V-P’ chants for the most dominant player on the team with the league’s best record.

The streak is the talk of the NBA right now, but streaking was going to be part of the conversation leading up to tonight’s game regardless. The Celtics come into tonight’s game having won eight in a row over the Heat, their longest current winning streak over any team. Boston has dominated this matchup for years, posting a 70-44 record all-time against Miami in the regular season.

College basketball just kicked off and Duke is once again among the game’s top teams, a school that consistently produces NBA talent at a relatively high level. That’ll be very apparent tonight when you consider this Boston-Miami matchup features three players (Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum for Boston, Justise Winslow for Miami) from Duke who will all be in the starting lineup and a fourth (Boston’s Semi Ojeleye) who attended Duke but later transferred to SMU.

Every front-office executive has that one player they tried – and failed – to acquire that, in hindsight, not getting him was a really good thing. Winslow is that guy for the Celtics. While he hasn’t been necessarily a bust, his impact at this level hasn’t been enough to have warranted all the assets Boston was willing to part with on draft night in order to move up and select him. Still, he’s healthy now and starting to play better which is evident by his numbers in most offensive categories on the rise, while his defense has been relatively solid.

The Heat have made the 3-point shot a much bigger part of their offense this season, evident by Miami ranking seventh in the league in 3-point makes (11.2) this season. In Boston, one of the keys to their top-ranked defense has been their length, which has come in real handy defending the 3-pointer. In fact, Boston has limited opponents to just 32.1 percent shooting on 3’s this season, which ranks third in the league.



WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat


WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]