76ers, Doc Rivers has been plagued by familiar defeat issues against the Hawks
In many ways, the Philadelphia 76ers were a new team this season. They had a new coach, a new lead voice at the front office, and a roster made up of several new faces. But, when the pressure hit in the playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, the Sixers were plagued by several familiar issues.
Turnovers have been a problem for the Sixers over the past few seasons. Under former head coach Brett Brown, the Sixers led the league in turnovers during the 2017-18 season at 16.5 per game. They improved slightly the following season and finished 25th with 14.9 per game.
Last season they climbed to 10th place in the NBA (14.2 per game), but then dropped back down to 21st place this season (14.4) under new coach Doc Rivers. Yes, these are regular season stats, but regular season play is the best indicator of playoff performance. Which is why it’s not all that surprising that Philly’s slack with basketball returned to hurt them against Atlanta.
In the four games the Sixers have abandoned in the series, they have lost the battle for turnover. It is not a coincidence.
- In Game 1 they had 19 turnovers to 15 for Atlanta and the Hawks ended up winning by four, 128-124
- In Game 4, the Sixers had three times as many turnovers as Atlanta (12 to four) and Philadelphia lost that game by three
- In Game 5, the Hawks won the turnover battle 15-11 and won the contest by three
- Finally, in Game 7, the Sixers made 17 turnovers, while the Hawks made only 10 and Atlanta won the game by seven.
Philadelphia’s four losses in the series were single digits, and turnovers could be seen as a major factor in every loss. In particular, Joel Embiid’s struggles with turnovers likely gave Sixers fans some flashbacks from previous playoffs. Embiid has had bearing issues throughout his career, but he improved to take care of the ball. He’s averaged 3.1 career turnovers per game over the season, but that number rose to 3.8 during the playoffs.
In the last three games of the series against Atlanta, Embiid recorded 21 total turnovers, many of which came at extremely inopportune times – like this one with the Sixers behind by four with less than a minute to go in. match 7:
Embiid carries a significant load on the Philadelphia offensive end, and he deserves credit for playing through a torn meniscus this playoffs. But as the trusted man on a team, you just can’t lose the ball in such a situation. This game essentially ended any hopes the Sixers had of winning Game 7 and extending their season.
Taking better care of basketball should again be a major goal for Philadelphia heading into next season.
Doc Rivers’ playoff struggles followed him to Philadelphia
Doc Rivers is a well-respected coach, but he’s had his fair share of playoff struggles. Heading into his first season with the Sixers, Rivers had earned a reputation as a playoff collapse. He’s the only coach in NBA history whose teams have exploded 3-1 playoff leads three times.
After the Clippers became the third team coached by Rivers to do so last season, Paul George criticized him for his lack of adjustments.
“Doc was trying to play me as Ray Allen or JJ Redick, all pin-downs. I can do it, but it’s not my game,” George said at the time. “I need a little fluidity, I need a mix of pick-and-roll and post-ups… This last season has been difficult.”
Those playoff struggles followed Rivers to Philly. The Sixers ‘Game 7 loss to Atlanta was Rivers’ fourth straight loss in Game 7, which is tied for the longest streak in NBA history. It was also Rivers’ 29th overall loss with a chance to win a playoff series, which is the highest by a head coach in league history.
Rivers made many questionable decisions regarding his rotation against Atlanta, and after leading 2-1 in the series and then losing more than 18 points in Games 4 and 5, the Sixers’ loss to the Hawks, fifth-seed. series, will go as another stain on Rivers CV, even if he doesn’t see it that way.
A lack of creation of a perimeter
If there has been a consistent hole in building the Philadelphia roster over the past few seasons, it’s the lack of perimeter creation – guys who can space the floor and make plays by beating their main defenseman. and by going into painting or operating out of choice. and-roll. The importance of this role becomes magnified in the playoffs when the pace slows down and the defenses are extremely focused. Just look at Trae Young, who had a day on the field against the Sixers in that semifinal role, as he was able to play consistently for Atlanta throughout games, while the Sixers struggled to keep up. looks good late in games. The Hawks outscored the Sixers 40-19 in the fourth quarter of their Game 5 victory and 23-18 in the final quarter of their Game 4 victory.
Embiid is excellent and he was an MVP finalist for good reason. But it is sometimes difficult for him to establish himself late in games as he depends on another player to hand the ball over to him and the defenses can charge him and deny entry passes. Ideally, Embiid would be paired with a dynamic perimeter player capable of generating their own offense in the blink of an eye. The kind of guy you can hand the ball to in isolation and say, “hey, go get us a bucket.” For all the things Ben Simmons does well, he’s not that guy.
The Sixers have tried to fix this problem in the past. They drafted Markelle Fultz with the first overall pick in 2017 to be that dynamic combo guard who could play alongside Simmons, with or without the ball. Obviously it did not work. Then Philly traded to Jimmy Butler – and he had a solid stint with the Sixers – but the two teams went their separate ways after just one season. Since then, this hole has remained empty.
It’s no coincidence that two of Philadelphia’s three wins in the series were backed by big play from the bench keepers. In Game 2 it was Shake Milton who helped the Sixers to a win, and in Game 6 it was rookie Tyrese Maxey. When these guys were at their best, they provided the Sixers with the kind of Perimeter Creation they needed alongside Embiid and Simmons, whose inability to generate his own attack makes another Perimeter Creator a hit. need in the first place. As long as Embiid and Simmons are the main building blocks of the squad, the Sixers need to do a better job surrounding them with high-level perimeter scoops.