Austin Rivers was unstoppable for the Houston Rockets on Sunday, scoring 41 points and making some history in the process.
It’s safe to say the motivational talk James Harden gave to Austin Rivers during Sunday’s game did the trick. The eight-year man had the game of his life against the Sacramento Kings, scoring 41 points on 14-of-20 shooting and burying six threes in the process.
“James came up to me during the game and said this is what we need. We need you to push yourself,” said Rivers postgame. Austin was the most aggressive we have ever seen him in a Rockets uniform — driving to the hole, making plays, and taking step back threes all game long.
With Russell Westbrook missing another game as a precaution with a nagging quad issue, the Rockets were going to need someone to step up against Sacramento’s tough group of De’Aaron Fox and Cory Joseph, and Buddy Hield.
Rivers not only did well in covering for the absence of Westbrook, but he also became the first Houston Rocket since 1991 to score 40 points off the bench. The last time that happened was when Sleepy Floyd scored 40 in February 1991 matchup with the Denver Nuggets.
With Sunday’s performance, Rivers scored the third-most points by a Houston Rocket off the bench behind Mike Dunleavy (48) and Calvin Murphy (42).
Austin Rivers dropped a career-high 41 tonight ? pic.twitter.com/NoBN8Q0lz2
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) August 10, 2020
Why Austin Rivers big game is huge for the Houston Rockets
Coach Mike D’Antoni has made a career out of playing his superstars extensive minutes, which sometimes leads to burnout.
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This season, of course, is much different from any other, as everyone in the league came in off of four months of rest.
Still, D’Antoni will need to have reliable bench options to hold the fort down when Russell Westbrook and James Harden need a breather.
Austin Rivers has been a solid contributor off the bench all season long for Houston, and with the uncertainty surrounding the health of Eric Gordon, his role becomes that much more important.
We all know Gordon is having a rough year in every sense of the word, so having another backup guard build the kind of confidence that Rivers just did will be crucial going forward.
Rivers’ career night shows what he’s capable of when he’s feeling it, which is the case for several Rockets on the roster.
With three games remaining until the playoffs, it will be interesting to see how Rivers builds off of his huge night.