After Two Straight Losses In Closeout Games, Are Doc Rivers And The 76ers Going To Be The First NBA Team To Blow A 3-0 Lead?

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The Philadelphia 76ers were blown out at home on Monday night 103-88 by the Toronto Raptors in another closeout game. Their best-of-seven series is now 3-2 with Game 6 back in Toronto on Thursday. The 76ers have lost two in a row after taking a commanding 3-0 series lead, and now head coach Doc Rivers may become the first coach to blow three 3-1 series leads and a 3-0 series lead.

Doc is in the exclusive 1,000-win club. One of only 10 head coaches to amass at least 1,000 victories. He has won at least half his games in all but three of his 23 seasons as an NBA coach, and won championship with the Celtics in 2008.

But there’s something about 3-1 leads with Rivers.

The first one was back in 2003, when he was head coach of the Orlando Magic and they blew a 3-1 lead to the Detroit Pistons. The end of that series was ugly. The Magic suffered a couple of blowout losses.

In 2015 Rivers was the head man with the Los Angeles Clippers, and they blew a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals to the Houston Rockets.

During his last season as head coach with the Clippers, they blew another 3-1 lead. This time in the 2020 “Bubble Playoffs” against the Denver Nuggets in the conference semifinals.

In the latter stages of his time with the Clippers and his early tenure with the 76ers, Rivers seems to be inflexible with his basketball philosophy. He tends to ride with veteran players even when their play impacts the team negatively. He’s often unwilling to give rookies opportunities to play through mistakes.

Now the 76ers are in a dogfight and if they somehow lose this series, it is unlikely that Rivers survives.┬áMonday’s loss came at home to a Raptors team without Fred VanVleet.

“I thought they attacked us, and we didn’t attack back,” Rivers said following the game. “We didn’t get in the paint enough, and it led to shots. Thought we took a lot of tough shots tonight.”

Rivers and the 76ers need to embrace Thursday’s Game 6 as a must win. If they head back to Philly for a Game 7, all the pressure will be on them. The Philly crowd will be on pins and needles all game, and Rivers and the team will feel the intense pressure.

76ers MVP candidate Joel Embiid had 20 points and 11 rebounds playing with a thumb injury. James Harden scored 15 points on 4-of-11 shooting, and wasn’t great.

As a team the 76ers were terrible in the first half. They finished with 10 turnovers and shot 35% from the field.

“They were the tougher team all night, they were more physical all night,” Rivers said. “I don’t think it was the second quarter. I thought it was throughout the game.”

Philadelphia fans booed their team off the court as the game wound down and now the 76ers are left searching for answers.

Rivers will need to find some ways to get Embiid some easier looks. Defensively they will need to do a much better job of limiting a Raptors team, that isn’t amazing on offense.

Otherwise Rivers might find himself making history for the wrong reasons and looking for another job.