The 76ers had a disappointing end to their season as they lost to the underdog Hawks in 7 games. Joel Embiid who played with a torn meniscus, was the best player in the series averaging 30.4 points 12.7 rebounds & 2 blocks per game. The same unfortunately couldn’t be said about his running mate Ben Simmons who had a series to forget. He averaged 9 points 6 rebounds & 8 assists while shooting 35 per cent from the free throw line which is the worst in NBA playoff history of players with a minimum of 70 attempts.
There is absolutely no excuse for Simmons he needs to improve on his game. When he first came into the league, he was highly regarded and viewed as the next Lebron James or Magic Johnson and as of right now it seems like he will fall very short of those players by the end of his career unless he seriously tries to improve. If he doesn’t he and Embiid will never be able to win a championship.
Having said that, I think the biggest issue with the 76ers is Doc Rivers. I used to believe he was an elite coach but after these last two post-seasons I can’t wholeheartedly say he is. The 76ers had significant leads in games 4 and 5 and lost both games after the Hawks stormed back in the second half of those games. We’ve also seen Doc Rivers drop big leads in close out games last post season with the Los Angeles Clippers, when they couldn’t close out the Denver Nuggets in games 5 & 6 and they ended up losing the series.
Doc Rivers is also the only coach in NBA history to lose multiple playoff series after being up 3-1. He first did it as the head coach of the Orlando Magic in 2003 when they had a 3-1 lead against the Detroit Pistons and lost. He did it again as head coach of the Clippers in 2015 against the Houston rockets, where they famously lost game 6 after having a substantial lead in the second half and collapsing in the 4th quarter with James Harden being a non-factor in that comeback. And of course last but not least last year again as coach of the Clippers against the Nuggets.
I don’t believe it’s fair to constantly blame his players. He is the coach and they only seem to drop 3-1 leads when he coaches them. Doc seems to be lacking in certain aspects as a coach, I would argue his biggest issue is making adjustments. We saw throughout the course of the series against Atlanta Doc refusing to sit Ben Simmons when he was continuously getting sent to the free throw line and missing. That in turn costed his team some games. We also saw in game 1 against the Hawks when he put his entire bench on and they got blitzed off the court which ultimately costed them the game. In the NBA playoffs your rotation always gets tighter and if you do not have great depth, putting in your entire bench on the court can be a detriment as we saw in that game.
There is a lot of blame to go around for that series but I don’t think anyone including Ben Simmons deserves more blame than Doc Rivers.
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Stats Provided by NBA.com