Rivers strained his left hamstring March 29 against the Washington Wizards and sat out the remaining six games of the regular season and the first four games of the playoffs.
“I think he’s going to play, at least that’s what we think right now,” coach Doc Rivers said Monday. “The problem is they’re going to put a severe minute restriction. I mean, yesterday they’re talking about 12 minutes. And I’m thinking, ‘I don’t even know what that does.’
“He hasn’t played, so I don’t know what we expect. At least we have another body. I don’t look at him returning being what he was right before he left. If he’s that, then I’ll be shocked. But at least we have another warm body. And that’s nice.”
Austin Rivers averaged a career-high 12 points per game on 37.1 percent 3-point shooting and a true shooting percentage of 54.5 percent this season. But Doc Rivers tempered expectations for the guard’s return in this Western Conference first-round series, which is tied 2-2.
“The framework of not having played at all — because of the hamstring, it’s not like you can play basketball,” the coach said. “So I don’t know what to expect. I would say if he gave us a couple of good minutes, I’m good with that. … His dribble penetration has been huge for us this year. And I don’t even know if he can do that.”
The former No. 10 pick of the 2012 draft has played well against the Jazz this season. The 24-year-old is second to only DeAndre Jordan in net rating against Utah at 18.4 in the four meetings.
“Well, his speed and his ability to get to the basket,” Doc Rivers said when asked why Austin has been so effective. “The problem is the injury he has may limit what he did well. So, we’ll see, though. Hopefully he can do a little. Just one drive I’ll take.
“And so that’s why he’s been so effective — or anyone effective against that team. Even though they have shot-blockers, when you have guys going downhill against them, it puts pressure on the defense. When you don’t, it puts pressure on the offense. I think that happened last night — we stopped going downhill. And it put a lot of pressure on our offense.”