The Sixers defense, Rivers & the teams future in Philly

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The Sixers defense, Rivers & the teams future in Philly. Should Glenn “Doc” Rivers be the 76ers head coach moving forward? How much of the blame should be placed on him for losses? “Doc” Rivers, 76ers defense and 2022 playoff success dives into this thoroughly with knowledgeable information.

Air Beard

James Harden throws up an air ball

What if Ben Simmons was just willing to shoot three pointers for the Philadelphia 76ers?

WHAT I’M SAYING IS IF BEN SIMMONS THREW UP AIR BALLS LIKE JAMES HARDEN DOES, THE SIXERS WOULD STILL HAVE THE BEST PERIMETER DEFENDER IN THE NBA.

Perimeter Defense

Before the season started, I personally predicted the Sixers as a 4-7 seed and a first round out without Ben Simmons’ perimeter defense.

The 76ers could have traded Ben and got a top-notch perimeter defender, along with some young talent. This could’ve forced me to change my prediction. They didn’t do that. What the Sixers did was acquire James Harden, which makes the perimeter defense of any team immeasurably worse. As it did for the Sixers defense.

IF PERIMETER DEFENSE IS A LIABILITY, CHANCES OF WINNING AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP IN THE PLAYOFFS IS 0%.

Scoring

HOW MANY POINTS YOU SCORE IS IMPORTANT BUT IT’S NOT THAT IMPORTANT. IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S THE DIFFERENCE IN WINNING/LOSING PLAYOFF SERIES”

THE TOP TWO ASPECTS OF WINNING TITLES ARE DEFENSE AND BALL PROTECTION. IF YOU CAN’T DO THESE WELL, HOW MANY POINTS YOU SCORE IS IRRELEVANT.

Glenn “Doc” Rivers 76ers coach

"Doc Rivers upset on the sideline, wanting his players to play better Sixers defense

Many fans are blaming Sixers head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers for the Sixers recent struggles. I’m not saying that Rivers should keep his job. I’m saying this scapegoat way of thinking, the reasoning many fans want Rivers gone is nonsensical.

Rivers has led a team to a championship before and the players from that 2008 Celtics love this man. That includes Kevin Garnett, a player who’s basketball knowledge I have complete faith in.

Ben vs ATL

I questioned if Doc Rivers should have remained in charge after Game 5 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Semi-Final series against the Atlanta Hawks. Ben Simmons was being intentionally fouled by the Hawks when Doc pulled him.

The Sixers were leading 87-69 when Ben was taken out because of Rivers’ fear that he would miss his free-throws.

When Simmons re-entered the game three minutes later the score was 87-76. Many 76ers fans saw that Trae Young had a big game, he only had 14 points before Simmons was pulled in the third quarter.

It was when Ben Simmons left the game that the Hawks began scoring easily on the Sixers defense. Ben was pulled again in the fourth quarter.

IF YOU COMBINE THE TWO STINTS THAT BEN SIMMONS WAS BENCHED DURING THIS GAME, THE SIXERS DIDN’T SCORE A SINGLE POINT. NOT EVEN ONE.

The result isn’t the part I find unacceptable, because no one could anticipate this. What I had issue with was why wouldn’t “Doc” Rivers, leading 87-69, not leave Ben Simmons in the game, given he was frustrating Trae Young to the extent that the shooting star wasn’t even attempting to put up shots. He was 3-8 in the first half and 3-9 in the third quarter. Many of those third quarter attempts being attempted after Ben exited the game.

What “Doc” Rivers should have done

Doc Rivers, 76ers coach talks with Ben Simmons about the game. Simmons led the Sixers defense for Philly.

What “Doc” Rivers should have done when he was up 87-69 was keep Ben in the game and let the Hawks foul Ben at least until the lead was cut to 8-10 points.

This would have created a few things that would’ve benefitted the Sixers and likely led to a different outcome in the series. It would have put the Atlanta Hawks into the penalty quickly and it would have put many of their key players into foul trouble, heading into the fourth quarter.

As I mentioned with Simmons on the court, the Hawks were having trouble scoring and as soon as he left, the basket opened up for them, instantly. The Sixers defense suffered with Ben on the bench.

Offensively, Rivers was worried that his team wouldn’t score with Ben being forced to the line but the team didn’t register a single point while Simmons was on the bench anyway.

I have to believe that if Ben remained in the game that the Hawks would’ve continued having issues scoring and that Simmons would’ve at least hit a few free throws. Even if he hit 3-10 on those free-throws that he never had the opportunity to attempt, that’s still three more points than the Sixers actually scored with Simmons on the bench.

Doc blames Harden

Glenn "Doc" Rivers and James Harden talk during a Sixers game. The Sixers defense isn't as good with Harden.

On April 1, “Doc” Rivers deflected blame from his bench and placed it towards recently acquired superstar(*), James Harden.

I think people missed Doc here. The Sixers have the worst bench in the NBA and this is partly due to the lack of talented players. Mostly losing Andre Drummond, who the Sixers traded to acquire Harden. Some people in Philadelphia saw this as Rivers taking his shortcomings and mistakes in the coaching game and attempting to place them elsewhere.

He was blaming James Harden, he’s just not exactly telling us the real reasons. He is half-venting. Letting us know he is upset with Harden but its likely due to the disappointment of his declining game and his lack of helping the Sixers defense. Half the time, James Harden doesn’t even attempt to play defense.

When he doesn’t have the ball on offense, after he gives it up, he just stands there like the play is finished. Having James Harden on the Sixers is a nightmare.

The Rivers on Fire

I have no issues with getting rid of “Doc” Rivers but I do take exception to some of the reasons people in Philadelphia believe he should be fired.

A coach in any sport is only as good as the talent he possesses. When “Doc” had top tier talent with the Celtics, he was the head coach of the NBA world champions.

I wrote this about Gabe Kapler in 2019. Stating similar facts as I am here. Gabe Kapler wasn’t going to be successful with the weaknesses his Phillies team had. Most notably the weakness in the bullpen.

These same people immediately said the same things about Kapler’s replacement Joe Girardi because he inherited the same issues and weaknesses as Kapler.

Heading into the 2021 season, the San Francisco Giants were predicted to be one of the worst MLB teams and with Kapler at the helm, the team won an MLB best 107 games.

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was a bum and needed to be replaced until he found himself coaching Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Does anyone really think Gregg Popovich isn’t the same coach as he was before or is it more likely that without the talent it’s impossible to win rings?

Phil Jackson won 11 rings as a NBA coach but when Michael Jordan left to play baseball, when Shaquille O’Neal was traded from the Lakers and when Kobe Bryant was the only star in Los Angeles, Jackson wasn’t winning any championships. Anyone remember his stint with the New York Knicks?

bench & defense

When a team is bad in transition defense and in defending the perimeter, no lead is safe. They will lose games to teams that they should defeat. This is the issues the Sixers defense has been facing.

THERE ISN’T ANYTHING THAT “DOC RIVERS” CAN DO TO MAKE PLAYERS LIKE TYRESE MAXEY AND JAMES HARDEN PLAY BETTER DEFENSE.

There isn’t a defensive game plan that is worth anything if the players aren’t good defensively. DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS EVERY SINGLE SEASON.

Which means if you aren’t good defensively, how many points you score doesn’t matter. The top teams will get stops in the playoffs and if you can’t, you’ve lost before you hit the court.

The Philly fans

I understand many Philly fans look at situations like this and point to different aspects of particular games and they say “this is the reason that we lost”.

It’s frustration, it’s understandable but basketball is a game of runs and it’s a game of mistakes and forcing mistakes. The truth is you can find moments like this in every game and pick apart any team.

In the end, with the 2021-22 Philadelphia 76ers, the main issue is lack of defense and if this wasn’t the case, the events that people are using to blame “Doc” Rivers for 76ers losses, wouldn’t have happened, they wouldn’t exist if the Sixers defense wasn’t a liability.

If you are instructing a 5-foot-5 person and you have to teach them to dunk a basketball, there isn’t anything that you can really do to teach them to execute this task. If the skillset doesn’t exist, it’s just not possible.

You could be the best teacher at teaching people how to dunk a ball but that doesn’t matter. Just like there isn’t anything “Doc” Rivers can do to make his team not be bad defensively. He doesn’t have the needed personal to make this happen. The Sixers defense needs good NBA defenders to play good perimeter defense.

Raptors

Pascal Siakam drives on Danny Green. The Sixers defense in 2022 is a liability on the perimeter.

The Sixers-Raptors game from April 7, 2022 from the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada was an eye opener, at least for anyone with their eyes still shut.

The Sixers were up 17-2 to start this game and I knew the Raptors would get back into the game and very quickly. This had nothing to do with negativity or anything like that.

It was simply because of the Sixers defense was leaving Toronto’s players wide open on the perimeter. We’re not talking about a player that can’t shoot being invited to do so. Not at all.

The score was 17-2 because Toronto started off shooting very poorly but if you’re going to give NBA players a clean look with time, it’s only a matter of time, before they start knocking down these shots.

I don’t care if you’re playing the worst team in the NBA. If the game was played outdoors, they would’ve had time to check and adjust for wind direction and speed.

The Raptors didn’t need much time in making up the early deficit. Ultimately winning the game 119-114.

checking the wind

Siakam

Pascal Siakam had a 37 point triple double in this game. 37 points-11 rebounds-12 assists-2 steals to be exact. Many in the local media after the game acted as if Siakam wasn’t going to play like this normally.

This is absolutely false, when you leave an all-star player like Siakam unchecked, he will do something similar to this performance more times than not.

Siakam shot 50 percent in the game, 14-28 from the field but was only 1-7 from beyond the arc. He isn’t a great three point shooter (34.4%) and shot very poorly from distance in this game. His seven shots from three are more than double his 3.2 attempts that he averages on the season.

The point is he can hit these shots and missing 6-7 isn’t something that will happen regularly, if he is wide open. Gary Trent Jr. dropped in 30 points too. Shooting 12-21 from the field and 5-8 from three.

Precious Achiuwa scored another 20 points for the Raptors, shooting 7-11 on field goals and 5-7 from distance. Siakam is the Raptors leading scorer on the season, averaging 22.8 points-per-game.

Toronto’s second and third top scorers in Fred VanVleet and O.G Anunoby didn’t even play in this game. I tend to think VanVleet would have a field day shooting against the Sixers defense, given he is his teams best shooter and it’s what he’s best at.

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Durant on Sixers transition defense

Kevin Durant had much to say after the Nets defeated the Sixers 129-100 on March 10, 2022. KD said “You know they don’t get back.”

That is in reference to the Sixers transition defense. Saying Philly doesn’t get back in an attempt to slow down or stop their opponents attack.

Joel Embiid

Without Joel Embiid’s play in 2021-22, I don’t know where the 76ers would be. He has been brilliant, he’s been clutch and most importantly he’s been on the court and healthy.

After Brooklyn massacred Philadelphia, next the Sixers played the lowly Orlando Magic, after the game Joel made this statement which in Jo Jo fashion is laced with some sarcasm.

I don’t know. Maybe we should not crash the boards and we should all get back on defense, but that’s not really the reason why. I think me, all of us, we’ve just been lazy and teams are taking advantage of that so at least the next 10 games, that has to be the focus of we just gotta start being better on that end.

I mean, KD (Kevin Durant) mentioned it last game. You saw it tonight (Monday), Orlando took a lot of advantage in that. It’s good for us. We know what the problem is so we just gotta fix it.

Joel Embiid on the Sixers defense

Embiid was the NBA MVP runner-up last season and if he doesn’t win the award in 2022, he won’t finish lower than 2nd for the award again.

The Kansas Jayhawk alum is leading the NBA in scoring in the 2021-22 season averaging 30.4 points-per-game. He will be the first center to lead the NBA in scoring since Shaquille O’Neal did it in the 1999-00 season.

Harden’s defensive answer

James harden is an awful defender for the Sixers defense.

James Harden’s answer to defensive failures is spacing on offense. This is why he has the number of championship rings that he does. You’re not outscoring anybody in the NBA playoffs and nothing on offense will improve the Sixers defense

JAMES HARDEN IS A NIGHTMARE, F***. He’s acting like if they space out on offense more that it will result in better transition defense. NOT WITH THE DEFENSIVE AWARENESS OF TYRESE MAXEY AND JAMES HARDEN, NO IT WON’T.

The fact that Harden is even pretending he’s interested in getting back on defense, I find it insulting. HEY JAMES, HOW ABOUT WE START WITH YOU BOTHERING TO LIFT YOUR ARM TO CONTEST A JUMP SHOT FIRST.

Playoffs

The Sixers could possibly win a playoff series in 2021-22. This is possible because they have Joel Embiid but if they do reach the 2nd round, that will be as far as they get. They will lose swiftly to a team like the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs.

You’re not defeating a true contender when you leave their players open for shots. It would be dumb luck if they didn’t get swept. Not sure the Sixers will make it that far though.

“Doc” Rivers Sixers career maybe should end but it’s not for the reasons everyone is talking about. Personally, he should be gone for game 5 vs the Hawks alone.

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