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Doc Rivers Is Already Concerned About the 76ers’ Inability to Defeat the Raptors

The Philadelphia 76ers will be without defensive stopper Matisse Thybulle when they play in Toronto tonight because he is not entirely vaccinated against COVID-19 and is not allowed into Canada.

On the other hand, the Sixers will be carrying a lot of baggage when they face the Raptors. Doc Rivers, the 60-year-old head coach, owns practically all of it. The type that makes you feel good.

Rivers, who has coached in the NBA for over two decades and won a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2007-08, has the unpleasant distinction of surrendering more 3-1 series leads in the best-of-seven finals than any other coach in league history (three).

Rivers has a chance to add to that dreadful record this season, as the 76ers led the Raptors 3-0 in their first-round series before dropping Games 4 and 5 to set up tonight’s pivotal Game 6 in Toronto. If the team loses tonight, the series will be decided in a winner-take-all Game 7 in Philadelphia.

That is not a scenario Philadelphia fans want to see, as Rivers has now lost four consecutive Game 7s, tying former coach Rick Adelman for the NBA’s longest losing streak in Game 7s. Rivers has also lost nine Game 7s in his career, including five at home, the most in NBA history. Last season, the top-seeded Sixers were defeated at home by the underdog Atlanta Hawks (who have already been eliminated from this year’s playoffs).

Rivers, who has blown many 3-2 leads in his coaching career, notably during the NBA Finals in 2009-10 when the Celtics fell to the Lakers in Game 7 after leading the series, pushed back against it during a press conference earlier this week.

Doc Rivers Is Already Concerned About the 76ers' Inability to Defeat the Raptors (1)
Doc Rivers Is Already Concerned About the 76ers’ Inability to Defeat the Raptors (1)

After Philadelphia’s practice on Wednesday, Rivers remarked, “Well, it’s easy to use me as an example.” “However, I wish you’d tell the complete story with me.” In 2003, my Orlando squad was the eighth seed. Is that all right?

Nobody gives me credit for beating the [Detroit] Pistons, who won the championship. That was a seed number eight. I’d like you to look through that roster again. I defy you to look at that roster again. And you’d remark, ‘Wow, what a fantastic coaching job.’

Doc, it’s all right. There aren’t many things there. The Detroit team that eliminated his Magic after a 3-1 deficit did not go on to win the championship. (The Pistons went on to win the following year.) And Hall-of-Famer Tracy McGrady, who won the scoring title and got MVP votes that season, was part of Orlando’s daring roster. It’s not like he’s a slacker.

Anyway, keep going.

“I mean, the Clipper squad that we lost 3-1 in 2015, Chris Paul didn’t play the first two games and was playing on one leg, and we didn’t have home court,” he explained. “Then there’s the last one [the Clippers’ 2020 loss to the Denver Nuggets], which I believe we blew. That’s the one I choose.

We squandered the opportunity. That was all contained within the bubble. In the bow, anything can happen. There is no home-court advantage. Game 7 would have taken place in Los Angeles.

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But it is unavoidable. So I’d say with me, some of them are…I constantly have to do better. I always assume full responsibility for my actions. Then there’s the stuff that happens because of circumstances. Let’s win this one, so we don’t have to talk about it.”

That would be ideal because if the 76ers lose Game 6, the noise will be loud, and Rivers’ track record shows he’s never quite found out how to drown it out and win.

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