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#pounditFriday, March 31, 2023

Doc Rivers defends himself over Joel Embiid injury blunder

Doc Rivers in a suit

Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA Today Sports

For a guy whose playing career ended over two-and-a-half decades ago, Doc Rivers sure is having to play a lot of defense this postseason.

The Philadelphia 76ers coach defended himself on Saturday over the injury suffered by star player Joel Embiid. The 76ers were up 29 points with under four minutes to go in Thursday’s series-clinching victory over Toronto when Embiid got hurt (video here). That begged the question of why Embiid and the rest of the 76ers’ starters were even in the game at that point.

“The other team had all their guys in too,” explained Rivers, per 76ers writer Tom Moore. “The last five minutes of the game, we made the run the last minute of that [stretch], right before that, that’s when we got up 29 …

[I’m] not upset that [Embiid] was in,” Rivers added. “Make that a big deal if you want. But just go look at every team and every game, and their guys are in until about the four or three minute mark.”

Granted, that is not exactly the best explanation given that the Raptors were facing elimination and had nothing to lose by playing all their starters until the final buzzer. The 76ers, though, knew that they had a quick turnaround before their second-round series against Miami (Rivers had even enacted an interesting strategy because of that) and had every reason to preserve their starters in a blowout. They were up 21 points to start the fourth quarter, and Toronto never got closer than 18 the rest of the way. With a 29-point lead (no less than a ten-possession game) and less than four minutes left, that game was in the refridgerator.

The 76ers are at least getting a glimmer of hope after the initial shock of the Embiid news. But all this might have been avoided if (a) they did not allow Toronto to even get to a Game 6 or if (b) Rivers had the foresight to pull his starters in an obvious laugher of a fourth quarter before Embiid got hurt.


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