NBA: Doc Rivers defends playoff record as 76ers prepare for Raptors
Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers defended his record in the NBA playoffs on Wednesday as his team prepared for a nervy game-six duel with the Toronto Raptors.
After surging into a 3-0 series lead, the Sixers have missed two chances to clinch the series, losing game four last Saturday before being defeated at home on Monday in a lackluster 103-88 defeat.
The nature of Monday’s loss — and the fact that Sixers star Joel Embiid is nursing a thumb injury — has raised the prospect of Philadelphia becoming the first team to blow a 3-0 series lead in NBA history.
It has also invited scrutiny of Rivers’ record in the playoffs.
The Sixers coach is the only coach in the NBA who has blown multiple 3-1 playoff series leads in his career.
Rivers’ Orlando Magic were pipped in seven games by the Detroit Pistons in 2003 after taking a 3-1 lead in the playoffs, and the Los Angeles Clippers suffered the same fate twice during Rivers’ reign, losing in 2015 to the Houston Rockets and in 2020 against the Denver Nuggets.
Rivers bristled on Wednesday when quizzed by reporters about his history of playoff near-misses ahead of Thursday’s game six in Toronto.
“Well, it’s easy to use me as an example,” Rivers said. “But I wish y’all would tell the whole story with me. All right?
“My Orlando team was the eighth seed. No one gives me credit for getting up against the Pistons, who won the title.
“That was an eighth 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, ‘What a hell of a coaching job.’ Really.”
Rivers added that his Clippers team in 2015 was hobbled by an injury to Chris Paul, while the team that lost to Denver in 2020 were playing in the unique fan-free environment of the pandemic bubble in Orlando.
“The 2015 Clipper team that we lost 3-1, Chris Paul, didn’t play the first two games, and was playing on one leg, and we didn’t have home court,” Rivers said.
“And then the last one (in 2020) to me, is the one we blew. That’s the one I took. We blew that. And that was in the bubble.
“And anything can happen in the bubble. There’s no home court. Game seven would have been in LA.”
“But, it just happens. So I would say with me, some of them is … I got to do better always. I always take my own responsibility. And then, some of it is, circumstances happen.
“This one, let’s win it, and we don’t have to talk about it.”