Rivers defends history of blown playoff leads with Raptors pressuring 76ers

Posted: 28/04/2022 in NBA
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Doc Rivers believes he’s unfairly maligned regarding his history of blown 3-1 postseason series leads.

The Philadelphia 76ers head coach has been at the forefront of three such collapses during his 23-year career. In 2003, his Orlando Magic went up 3-1 on the Detroit Pistons in the first round but were eventually eliminated in seven games. He suffered the same fate with the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2015 and 2020 Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets, respectively.

With his 76ers preparing for a Game 6 against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday after going up 3-0, Rivers shot back at those who feel the 60-year-old is on the verge of another historic implosion.

“Well, it’s easy to use me as an example,” he told reporters Wednesday, courtesy of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “But I wish y’all would tell the whole story with me. My Orlando team was the eighth seed. No one gives me credit for getting out against the Pistons, who won the title (the next season). … I dare you to go back and look at that roster. You would say, ‘What a hell of a coaching job.’ Really.

“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 (advantage). And then the last one, to me, is the one we blew. We blew that. And that was in the bubble, and anything can happen in the bubble. There’s no home court. Game 7 would have been in L.A.”

Ten other coaches have been eliminated in seven games after taking a 3-1 series lead. That includes Steve Kerr, whose 73-win Golden State Warriors failed to put away LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. Rivers, though, is the only one to suffer multiple such setbacks.

However, failing to put away the Raptors would be an unprecedented blemish on Rivers’ resume. No NBA team in history has ever come back to win a series after going down 3-0, and only three have managed to force a Game 7: the 1951 New York Knicks, 1994 Denver Nuggets, and 2003 Portland Trail Blazers.

Following Philadelphia’s Game 5 loss at home to Toronto on Monday, Rivers is now 3-11 in 14 closeout games dating back to 2015 and 15-31 in his career, courtesy of StatMuse.

“It just happens,” he said. “So, I would say with me, some of them is I gotta do better always, 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.”

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