Doc Rivers’ surprising claim after Game 4 loss could light fire under Joel Embiid
Rivers didn’t offer any excuses as the Hawks gutted it out all game long to tie the pulsating series at 2-2. While it was the backcourt of Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic who torched the Sixers, Rivers paid the ultimate compliment to Hawks forward John Collins (via Peachtree Hoops).
“I thought Collins was the toughest guy on the floor all night”
Doc Rivers in postgame
— Peachtree Hoops (@peachtreehoops) June 15, 2021
It was a surprising claim from Rivers since obviously, Collins is from the opposing team. But it could be viewed as good old mental gymnastics from the veteran tactician to light a fire under his team, particularly his big men Joel Embiid, Dwight Howard, and Tobias Harris.
Collins had a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds in Game 4. While the numbers don’t exactly leap out, he made his presence felt on both ends with intangible plays like boxing out, battling for 50-50 balls, setting solid picks, and providing help defense. He was instrumental in making life difficult for Embiid, who only made four of his 20 shots. The Sixers star, however, was clearly bothered by his knee injury, even exiting the game briefly in the second quarter.
The Sixers had multiple chances to steal Game 4 but Embiid muffed several attempts in the dying moments. They also went up by four points in the last few minutes of the quarter after a Furkan Korkmaz three-pointer. But the Hawks answered with their own three-pointer courtesy of—you guessed it—John Collins.
It was arguably the biggest shot of the night as it prevented the Sixers from pulling away. As Doc Rivers said: Tough.