Hired to coach championship teams, Doc Rivers has a surprisingly unimpressive record in Game 7s
Glenn “Doc” Rivers is one of the most respected coaches in NBA history, often hired by team executives to take a team over the hump from contender to champion. He led the big three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen to win the Boston Celtics 17th NBA Championship back in 2008. That brings Doc to Philadelphia over a decade later as he looks to lead his new big three of Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid to the promised land.
Every championship run involves many ups and downs along with pressure-packed situations, as it’s rare that someone breezes through the playoffs en route to a title. Often coaching plays a significant factor in how teams respond to pressure, and you would expect that the best coaches take it up a notch when the stakes are highest. Labeled as the two best words in basketball, a Game 7 is the ultimate pressure test where after a grueling series and endless adjustments, both teams play one game for all the marbles. Given Doc’s reputation, you would think he is a master in these situations, but as it turns out, he is surprisingly only 6-8 in deciding games in the playoffs.
The last time this group was in this situation was against the Toronto Raptors in 2019, also in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The team lost on a last-second shot by the finals MVP of that year, Kawhi Leonard, but had played well enough to get within one basket of a trip to the conference finals under the guidance of former coach Brett Brown. With Doc at the helm, the Sixers hope that their fate will be different this time.
The Sixers are expected to win this deciding game on their home floor as their opponent; the young Atlanta Hawks just don’t seem ready. They have had some fantastic comebacks and poised performances down the stretch, but the feeling is that the series is where it is right now due to Philly’s shortcomings more than Atlanta’s heroics. The Hawks are a formidable foe and have won on the Sixers’ home floor twice this series, but with the Sixers having Joel Embiid and a bit more playoff experience, it’s their game to lose.
“I’m definitely gonna be better. There’s no chance I play worse than I did tonight, shooting the ball. You know, I’m at home, in front of the home crowd.”Joel Embiid, via NBC Sports
For Doc, his last game 7 experience was not great. In last year’s NBA bubble, his Clippers blew a big lead at the half only to be eliminated by the Denver Nuggets after leading the series 3-1. It’s championship or bust here in Philadelphia, with Doc being the remaining ingredient to have the city’s title hopes realized. However, it is not just the players that will have to exorcise the demons of their previous game 7 loss. Doc was hired to finish the job, and to do so, he must exorcise his own Game 7 demons to lead his team to victory.
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