The 2021-22 NBA playoffs means a huge test for the Philadelphia 76ers. Not only for the franchise itself, as they intend to win their first title in a long time, but especially for James Harden and Doc Rivers.
Both of them have a lot of responsability in their hands for how the Sixers perform this time but they're also under a lot of pressure because of their playoff history, which has produced them a lot of criticism in recent years.
While the Beard has yet to win an NBA ring, one of the biggest stains in Doc Rivers' résumé is how some of his teams failed to put a playoff series away when leading 3-1. Let's take a look at all of those collapses here.
All of Doc Rivers 3-1 series losses
Doc Rivers is the only coach in NBA history who coached more than one team that blew a 3-1 lead and lost in a playoff series. It happened on three different occasions, which break down as follows:
2003: Orlando Magic 3-1 Detroit Pistons
The first of Doc Rivers' three biggest playoff collapses came early in his coaching career. In 2003, the eighth-seeded Magic were about to pull off a shock as they were leading the first-seeded Pistons 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs. However, Detroit bounced back and went on to win the next three games. The Pistons won the title the following season.
2015: Los Angeles Clippers 3-1 Houston Rockets
12 years later, Rivers would suffer the second of his worst playoff eliminations. The Clippers were leading 3-1 in the Conference semifinals against the Rockets, who then had current Sixers star James Harden on the floor and Daryl Morey - 76ers' current president of basketball operations - as GM. However, Houston turned things around in the final three games.
2020: Los Angeles Clippers 3-1 Denver Nuggets
History repeated itself just five years later in what has probably been the worst of these three playoff collapses. The star-studded Clippers, led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, were just one win away from leaving the Nuggets on the way with a 3-1 lead in the Conference semis played at the Orlando bubble. The ending, however, was completely embarrassing for Los Angeles as they blew double-digit leads in the next three games to let the series slip away.
"To me, is the one we blew," Rivers said, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. "That's the one I took. We blew that. And that was in the bubble. And anything can happen in the bubble. There's no home court. Game 7 would have been in LA."
These playoff collapses are certainly a stain in his career, which nevertheless includes an NBA championship in 2008 with the Boston Celtics. Will Rivers and the Sixers avoid another embarrassing playoff exit this year?