The Philadelphia 76ers are on the precipice of the improbable. After going down 1-2 to the seemingly superior Boston Celtics, Philly has rallied to win two straight. The most recent victory was a dominant Game 5 win on the road, in hostile territory. Joel Embiid put together his best game of the playoffs, dropping 33 points and blocking four shots.
All season, we’ve talked about the Sixers’ grit and determination — a will to win that felt absent in prior years. Well, this series has put it on full display. It’s not over. Boston will be favorites in Game 6 and probably in Game 7, if the series goes that far. But the Sixers are in prime position to make the first conference finals appearance of Embiid’s career.
What did we learn from the squad’s remarkable Game 5 victory?
Lessons from 76ers’ Game 5 win over Celtics
1. Doc Rivers… good playoff coach?
Lost in the shuffle of conversation around this Sixers team has been Doc Rivers’ remarkably solid postseason. There has been a lot of valid criticism of Rivers’ coaching in years past. Going into the 2023 playoffs, many expected the Sixers to be operating as a constant coaching disadvantage.
Well, not so. Rivers has out-maneuvered and out-adjusted Boston’s Joe Mazzulla. He found ways to unlock the Embiid-Harden P&R after Boston stifled it in Game 3. He found ways to get Tyrese Maxey going against a team that has historically suffocated him. He suggested the gospel song that inspired Harden’s magnificent Game 4 performance.
After the win Tuesday night, Rivers talked about the “gut feeling” that led him to go with Danuel House Jr. over other second-unit options. House scored 10 points and played critical defense in his 15 minutes on the floor. That kind of adjustment — the ability to alter rotations based on need — is what Rivers has struggled with in the past. To his credit, he has been much quicker to those adjustments in 2023.
If the Sixers can pull this out… then credit is due where credit is due. Rivers has done an excellent job so far.