With 19 games as a member of the Wizards under his belt, Austin Rivers believes he has finally discovered the key to playing alongside All-Stars John Wall and Bradley Beal.
At first, his instinct as a bench player running with stars was to defer and consider their shots before taking his. Rivers, though, has learned that is the opposite of what he needs to do.
He says he needs to attack the defense, just like he would playing with Tomas Satoransky or anyone else on the Wizards roster.
"I think I've finally [figured it out]," Rivers said. "I have to be more aggressive. They actually like that, too, because it makes it easier for them because I will attack and then they get easy shots instead of having to work for every shot."
For anyone wondering if Wall or Beal is okay with that approach, listen to Wall himself. The Wizards point guard says he's been telling Rivers to be more assertive over and over this season.
Wall plays with a relentless goal of breaking down defenses off the dribble. When he gets the ball, he heads to the rim like a homing missile. He wants to reach the paint then look to score or pass to an open teammate.
Knowing how well that approach can help an offense, Wall believes Rivers can do the same.
"We try to tell him to play every game; just be aggressive and get down here and try to get to the basket," Wall said.
Blitzing the lane helped Rivers put in one of his best games of the season so far on Saturday night against the Pelicans. He dropped 18 points on 8-of-11 shots, with only one of his makes a three-pointer. The rest of his field goals were all in the lane.
Rivers' 18 points were more than he scored in his previous four games combined. It was just the fourth time in 19 games he's reached double figures this season.
Head coach Scott Brooks called it one of his best games with the Wizards so far and cited "being aggressive" as the reason. Brooks clearly saw a difference in Rivers, as he played the veteran guard for the entire fourth quarter.
Rivers ended up scoring 12 points on 5-for-6 field goals in the fourth quarter and also pitched in on defense with two blocks and two steals. Along with Wall and Beal, he set a tone on both ends and helped the Wizards eke out a victory.
It has been said before after Rivers' fleeting moments of brilliance this season that he can make a major difference for the Wizards if he plays down-hill. It's easier said than done, but Rivers knows the formula.
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