There are some people that are capable of owning the moment, and there are others who shy away from it. When I first watched Austin Rivers hoop during a high school game that aired on ESPN, and watched him (in the words of Kenny Masenda) get his “Kyle Lee Watson” on, there was no doubt that Rivers was going to get his. You just better get yours when you can.
Fast-forward to Wednesday night for Duke versus North Carolina, and there was Rivers having an awesome game and playing with the restraint that Coach Mike Krzyzewski has instilled in him. Sure, there are moments in games where Rivers will still go for his, but as the season has rolled on for Duke, Rivers has found the appropriate times to pick his spots.
Yet, as the Blue Devils were attempting to make their comeback from down 12 with 2 minutes to go, Rivers was still deferring to others: Finding Seth Curry for three, hitting Ryan Kelly on the baseline for a jumper, even though you could absolutely tell that he wanted to shoot….he passed the ball and made the right play. As time wound down and the Duke pulled to within one of Carolina (after UNC squandered a ten-point lead in the last two minutes) there was one person that had to get the ball. Every Duke player knew it, every UNC player knew it (except for Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller), the coaches knew it, the referees knew it and every person watching the game knew it. Get the ball to No. 0.
Nothing else needed to be said. Even with Seth Curry inexplicably trying to yell instructions to the man, even with a 7-footer in his face, it didn’t matter. Rivers was in his natural element and executed like only he could. Teddy ballgames for North Carolina. Comeback complete for the Blue Devils.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”