Back from injury, Pelicans guard leads way to summer win
LAS VEGAS — Austin Rivers had 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists as the New Orleans Pelicans opened the NBA Summer League with a 77-72 victory over the New York Knicks on Friday.
Rivers made two free throws that gave the Pelicans a five-point lead with 20 seconds left. He also made three-point plays in the second and third quarters that allowed the Pelicans to claim or maintain leads.
Rivers led New Orleans with 13 points in the first half, while Cameron Moore came off the bench to score 13 points — including 12 in the first half, allowing the Pelicans to eradicate the Knicks’ 19-13 lead late in the first and early in the second quarter.
Darius Miller added 12 points, Brian Roberts had 10 points and five rebounds and Jon Brockman scored nine points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
Tim Hardaway Jr. topped the Knicks with 13 points.
It was Rivers who guarded Hardaway for most of the game, holding him to three points in the second half.
“I thought he did a really good job defensively,” New Orleans Summer League coach Bryan Gates said. “Hardaway made a couple shots. (Rivers) contested. His hand was right there. The big thing was Hardaway hit a tough, contested shot on him, and he just (said) ‘OK, you’re going to make a shot. That happens.’
“And then, obviously, he got to the rim a couple times, and his confidence got really high, and that brought him around. Obviously when you see the ball go in, the rest of the game starts to become easy. I was really happy how he closed the game.”
After breaking his hand late last season, Rivers saw this Summer League game as a success — for him, and for the team.
“I haven’t played in so long, since I got hurt,” Rivers said. “It’s kind of a blessing in disguise. I got to work on my left (hand) and I got to watch a lot of film and see my weaknesses and how I need to change speeds instead of going 100 miles per hour.
“And it kind of showed today, just like getting to the lane and changing speeds and getting high off the glass and pulling up your shots and getting people open. I’ve got to continue to work (on these things). ...
“Towards the end of the season, right before I broke my hand, I started to play a lot better. And that’s because I started changing speeds and started to relax and let the game come to me. So I ended on a good note and I’m very confident in myself now.”
Gates also was glad to see Rivers change speeds throughout the game.
“It’s just slowing down just a little bit, and he’s slowing down a little bit, not getting so anxious,” Gates said. “Whether a mistake might bother him or a bad call, he gets over it a little quicker. A bad turnover — he gets over it. If he gets really frustrated, he realizes it and then kind of gets himself back together.
“I’m an Austin Rivers fan. I always have been. He’s growing. OK, he’s young, he’s made some mistakes earlier; it means he’s got more of an angle to go straight up. He’s good. How he played today — his shot started going, but I thought he did a really good job defensively. Hardaway is a good player; a couple contested shots and he kept right with it.”
Gates said he also liked the energy from Moore and power forward Jon Brockman, in particular.
Rivers, meanwhile, was just glad the game is history.
“Today, I was so nervous for the game because I haven’t played. (I was) not a scared nervous. ... I was so anxious to just touch the ball and for the jump ball to go up. And once it did, I started to settle down — ‘All right, I’m back now. All right, I’ve just gotten a game under me.’ I’m good now, and let’s go out and play.”