In a postseason that started to unfold perfectly around the Sixers, it ended in disaster because of their own self-doing. Philadelphia was taken out in Game 7 by the Atlanta Hawks and as a result, they were booed off their home floor.
While those jeers may have been meant to be specifically directed at individuals from the Sixers, it perfectly put a bow on yet another disappointing season. Despite all of it, Doc Rivers shouldn’t be fired after yet another playoff choke job.
The recent numbers for Doc Rivers coaching in the postseason are alarmingly bad. After coaching a Clippers squad that choked away a 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets in The Bubble, Rivers’ Sixers squad squandered massive leads in multiple games against the Hawks.
Doc Rivers 2020 playoff exit:
G5 — Blew 16-point lead
G6 — Blew 19-point lead
G7 — Blew 12-point lead
Doc Rivers 2021 playoff exit:
G4 — Blew 18-point lead
G5 — Blew 26-point lead at home
G7 — Lost at home to opposing best player shooting 5-23 pic.twitter.com/kHmlD2SNtu
— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 21, 2021
Doc Rivers has 29 losses with a chance to clinch a playoff series, the most losses by a head coach in NBA history.
His .341 win percentage is the worst all time among coaches with 20+ games. pic.twitter.com/yfNmh2BavS
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 21, 2021
Perhaps most damning of them all was the Sixers’ 26-point lead in Game 5 that they blew, allowing the Hawks to gain a 3-2 advantage in the series. Whether it’s questionable in game adjustments or some of the perplexing rotations that were on display against Atlanta, Rivers certainly deserves some of the blame.
However, this was his first year in Philly. That doesn’t excuse some of the poor coaching but shuffling in a third coach in as many seasons for the franchise could end up doing more harm than good. You can’t keep having a revolving door at the head coaching position. Where it gets tricky is that some may have already soured on Rivers to the point of no return. If that’s the case, the Sixers could just be delaying the inevitable.
One thing Rivers has done successfully as a coach throughout his career is getting his teams into the postseason. But the Sixers are at a point where that isn’t an issue. They are a consistent playoff team in the Eastern Conference. It’s that next step that they have struggled with. And Rivers was part of the struggles in the series against Atlanta.
Following Game 7 Rivers was asked if Ben Simmons can be the point guard of a championship team to which Rivers responded by throwing Simmons directly under the bus.
"I don't know the answer to that question right now."
Doc Rivers on if Ben Simmons can be the point guard on a championship team pic.twitter.com/JPR3xAQj9B
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 21, 2021
Maybe the correct route to go is to give Rivers credit for the brutal honesty. Simmons was atrocious offensively all series long against Atlanta. Rivers just provided his honest take to answer the question. But as the head coach, there’s a place and a time and piling on in that moment seemed a tad out of touch.
Saying Rivers shouldn’t be fired isn’t a vote of confidence and it isn’t wiping away from his shortcomings coaching during the postseason in the past few years, including this go around. It’s recognizing the larger picture and that the Sixers just aren’t in a spot to go through three coaches in three years. Had they been swept, had they been eliminated in the first round we are talking about a far different outcome and a different fate for Rivers in Philly. But that wasn’t the case even though the end result was still wildly disappointing.