Doc Rivers is an exceptional coach who is known for his intense defensive setup. Although he has one NBA championship under his belt as a coach, his career is scarred with some of the worst NBA playoffs collapses.
While he has had decent success in the NBA playoffs, there have been instances when his teams' performances have been unforgivable. The same pattern is unfolding during his current run with the Philadelphia 76ers. Doc Rivers' 76ers blew a 26-point lead against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals on Wednesday.
Doc Rivers has received high praise for his defensive setup and ability to put together solid rosters over the years. However, he has also overseen his teams bottle comfortable leads in NBA playoff games and ultimately lose the series.
Another loss in the NBA playoffs, despite being the better team on paper, is something the experienced coach would love to avoid. Meanwhile, boos echoed at the Wells Fargo Center after a devastating 106-109 loss on Wednesday. The Philadelphia 76ers now trail 2-3 in the series.
If the Philadelphia 76ers do not reach the Conference Finals, Doc Rivers could be sacked after just one season in charge of the 76ers. Clinching the number one seed in the regular season will not mean much if his team does not compete for the championship.
On that note, here are the five worst NBA playoff collapses in Doc Rivers' coaching career:
#5 Doc Rivers' Boston Celtics blew a 3-2 lead in the 2010 NBA Finals
Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics finished the 2009-10 NBA regular season fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. Their playoff run was memorable, as they ran through the best teams in the East without breaking a sweat. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett put together sublime performances despite far from being young.
The Boston Celtics overcame the Miami Heat in the first round despite Dwayne Wade's offensive precision. He led the scoring charts in all five games in the series. It was more of the same in the second round against the no. 1 seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. The combination of LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal was not enough to inspire a victory.
Another impressive 4-2 win over the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals took Doc Rivers to the NBA Finals for the second time in his coaching career. This time, his team squandered a 3-2 lead to lose the championship.
Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers were not as talented or experienced as the Boston Celtics team. Surprisingly, they managed to turn things around in Games 6 and 7.
#4 Doc Rivers' Boston Celtics blew a 3-2 lead in the 2012 EC Finals
Doc Rivers had a unique opportunity to exact revenge against the Miami Heat for their early elimination in the 2011 NBA playoffs but failed to do so. The Boston Celtics were looking for another trophy under the leadership of Doc Rivers but fell short.
The Boston Celtics started their 2012 NBA playoffs campaign with a win over the Atlanta Hawks. It was a back and forth affair in the second round, as they had a hard time shaking off the Philadelphia 76ers. Eventually, the Celtics edged the 76ers and faced a familiar foe in the Conference Finals.
It was an inspiring performance early in the series, but the team could not hold on to their momentum. The Miami Heat took an early 2-0 lead in the series, but things almost went south from there.
Games 3, 4, and 5 were won by the Boston Celtics, bringing Doc Rivers' superior strategies to the fore. The Boston Celtics were favorites to win the series, but the Miami Heat rallied to close out the series.
#3 Doc Rivers' Orlando Magic blew a 3-1 lead in 2003
Doc Rivers was in his fourth season with the Orlando Magic and was making his third appearance in the NBA playoffs as a head coach. Although the Magic were the 8th seed in the East, they had superstar Tracy McGrady in their roster.
While much was not expected from the Orlando Magic against the no. 1 seed in the East, the Detroit Pistons, Doc Rivers' team were well on his way to pulling off an upset. McGrady lived up to the occasion and dropped 43 points to power the Magic to victory in Game 1.
The Detroit Pistons hit back in Game 2 but lost Games 3 and 4. Despite the Orlando Magic being the underdogs, Doc Rivers' team was favored to pull off the upset, based on proceedings but collapsed
Pistons coach Rick Carlisle made adjustments heading into Game 5 that immensely benefitted his team. Doc Rivers failed to respond tactically and saw his team ending up bottling their significant lead.
#2 The LA Clippers blew a 3-1 lead in 2015
The LA Clippers beat the San Antonio Spurs after a riveting Game 7 in the 2015 NBA playoffs. Chris Paul, who has been unlucky in the playoffs, sustained a hamstring injury in that game. But that did not deter him from making the game-winning shot to help his team advance to the Western Conference Semi-finals.
Although Chris Paul missed the first two games of the second round against the Houston Rockets, the Clippers produced decent performances. The Clippers won Game 1 but were inconsistent in Game 2. Paul's return led Doc Rivers' side to victories in Games 3 and 4. The Clippers, though, failed to capitalize on their 3-1 lead and lost Game 5.
Despite the loss in Game 5, things were starting to look up for the Clippers, as they had a commanding 87-68 lead late in the second quarter in Game 6. They looked on course to close out the series. But the Rockets coach changed things around with his decision to bench James Harden for the better part of the fourth quarter.
Again, it was the better tactician that won, as Doc Rivers had no answers for the Rockets' change. The Rockets bench orchestrated an inspiring comeback, resulting in one of the most shocking comebacks in NBA playoffs history. The Rockets tied the series at the end of the night and secured victory in Game 7.
#1 Doc Rivers' LA Clippers blew a 3-1 lead in 2020
One would think that a coach of Doc Rivers' caliber would have learned from his numerous mistakes and close out series better. But that was not the case, as he was once again at the receiving end of another NBA playoffs comeback.
With Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverley and the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, Montrezl Harrell, the Clippers were one of the favorites to win the 2020 NBA championship. But that did not come to fruition, as Doc Rivers and the Clippers endured another collapse.
The LA Clippers managed another 3-1 lead in the series, but things panned out like in the 2015 second round. Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets crawled their way out of the deficit before completed the comeback.
It was an all-around horrendous display from the LA Clippers. Their highly praised bench was unable to deliver the goods, while their superstars also choked. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George went scoreless in the fourth quarter of a make-or-mar Game 7.
The Denver Nuggets clinched the victory and went on to face eventual champions LA Lakers in the Conference Finals.