PORTLAND — Chris Wright jokingly pestered Jeremiah Rivers hours before the Maine Red Claws game Sunday afternoon.
“I would keep asking, ‘hey, is your dad coming?’” Wright said, smiling.
Jeremiah’s father happens to be Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. And the rumor that he would be watching the Red Claws turned out to be true.
Rivers, his wife Kristen and younger son Spencer, 17, had courtside seats, watching Maine beat the Erie BayHawks 102-101 before 2,705 at the Expo.
Rivers skipped his own team’s practice to be here.
“We try to make as many games as we can,” Doc Rivers said of his infamous schedule of traveling the country — and sometimes the world — to see his four athletic children play.
The last time Doc saw Jeremiah play was in Serbia in November of 2011. Jeremiah has been recovering from double ankle surgery since. He was activated with the Red Claws two weeks ago.
The team liked having “Jeremiah’s dad” watching.
“It was exciting to have him come and check us out,” Wright said, “and then to talk to us after the game was huge.”
Wright led the Red Claws (21-18) with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Micah Downs, who played for Rivers last fall on the Celtics’ preseason roster, scored 23. Erik Daniels scored 18 for Erie (20-17).
“Just having (Doc Rivers) out here is extra motivation,” Downs said. “That’s the goal for everyone, to play at the level he’s coaching. I think that inspired a lot of us today.”
While Maine was inspired, Erie was without its second-leading scorer and top rebounder, 6-foot-10 Henry Sims, who signed a contract with the New Orleans Hornets.
Still, the BayHawks stayed close with Maine. The game, like Friday’s match-up between the two teams, came down to the last possession.
On Friday, Maine had the ball last and scored in a 90-88 win.
On Sunday, Erie had the ball with 14 seconds left, down 102-101.
Maine’s defense allowed nothing close, and the BayHawks missed a jump shot. Erie’s Daniels rebounded and tried jumper but Wright swatted it out of bounds with 2.3 seconds remaining. Erie got off one more rushed shot, but Cory Higgins’ attempt bounced off the rim.
“Great work by our defense,” Red Claws coach Mike Taylor said.
Maine’s offense worked well, too, unlike the recent road trip when the Red Claws lost five straight.
With 1:30 left, point guard Shelvin Mack dished to guard Mark Tyndale, who instantly found Downs open in the corner. His 3-pointer put Maine up 101-95.
“These last two games we’ve been stressing playing more team basketball because we got away from that a little bit,” Downs said. “If we keep moving the ball like that, and playing hard-nosed defense like we’ve been doing, we’re going to be a tough team again.”
Mack recorded 15 point and 10 assists. Forward DaJuan Summers added 16 points. Center Fab Melo blocked seven shots. As for the younger Rivers, 6-5 Jeremiah had 11 points, seven rebounds and two assists, in the first game in front of his dad in 16 months.
“It was great to have him come,” Jeremiah said. “And it was good to see my little brother and my mom.”
Taylor, who worked with Doc Rivers during the Celtics preseason camp, called him “a great basketball guy and a great person.
“So great for him to come up to support his son and our team. He brought a lot of enthusiasm with him. I think the guys played extra hard.”