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Doc Rivers was asked about his struggles with closing series, and he was not happy about it. No one likes rehashing their bad days, but the 76ers head coach went into full defense mode.
“I wish you guys would tell the whole story with me,” Rivers said to reporters. “My Orlando team was the eight seed. No one gives me credit for losing to the Pistons who won the title. That was an eight seed…I want you to go back and look at that roster. I dare you to go back and look at that roster and you would say, ‘That’s one hell of a coaching job.’
“The Clipper team that we lost 3-1…Chris Paul didn’t play in the first two games and was playing on one leg…and we didn’t have home court. The last one, to me, is the one we blew. And that one happened in the bubble…anything can happen a bubble where there’s no home court where game 7 would’ve been in L.A. I always take my own responsibility and some of it is circumstances happen.”
Doc Rivers got a little defensive when discussing his past teams' collapses 👀 pic.twitter.com/88PqjDDUZa
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 27, 2022
One thing Doc Rivers needs to understand, and he should know this by now, is that the NBA is all about narratives that’ll click online. Part of what he said about receiving credit is true. He did take an underwhelming Orlando Magic team to a 3-1 series lead over the No. 1 seed Pistons in 2003, all to blow it by the end. You get credit for steering a ship filled with players hardly anyone can name, but the media will only remember how you docked the boat (no pun intended).
Doc Rivers has got to realize the media is only going to talk about his worst days, especially when he’s right in the middle of dropping Games 4 and 5 and now has to try and close a series on the road in Game 6. When Doc Rivers-led teams have lost multiple 3-1 series leads and now they’re close to blowing a 3-0 series lead, these are exactly the kind of questions that Rivers should be asked.
Rivers has been involved in the NBA since 1983. He should know better.
All that said, Doc Rivers is facing some bad luck. The 76ers dealt Ben Simmons for James Harden, all to get a player who looks miles past his prime. Then Joel Embiid tears a ligament in his thumb that’s noticeably impacting both his offensive and defensive abilities. At the same time, a team with championship aspirations should be able to win one basketball game with four chances against a 5-seed Raptors team. Their best player is freakin’ Pascal Siakam — come on.
Our narrative now is that Doc Rivers can’t close a playoff series and needs Hall of Famers like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in a league without another super team. Not saying that’s true, but that’s what’s being written.
We’ve heard all the excuses, and while some of them are reasonable, Rivers needs to quit defending himself and let a series victory do the talking. All the talk about playoff collapsing ends if the 76ers close out the Raptors Thursday night.