Do the 76ers beat Celtics if Nick Nurse is the coach?
First to remember, talent almost always wins out.
An Erik Spoelstra-coached Heat lost to Brett Brown’s Sixers in just five games back in 2018. Doc Rivers knocked out Nurse’s Raptors in six games last season.
The Celtics were probably a better team than the Sixers this year; during the regular season, they handled them with ease except for the last game, when they were missing two starters. But a good coach takes advantage of opportunities.
Thanks to Mazzulla’s errors, the inconsistency of Boston’s players, and James Harden becoming ‘Houston Harden’ a couple of times, the Sixers had a chance to steal this series.
Going against a guy with all of two years of Division II college head coaching experience, one can imagine Nurse would have thrown all kinds of things at Mazzulla defensively, seeing how he reacted. Maybe a box-and-one on Tatum? Or a triangle-and-two on Brown and Tatum? Maybe blitzing Marcus Smart when he had the ball, forcing him to make a quick pass?
With the wheels on the offense grinding to a halt in the fourth quarter in Game 6, Nurse would have done something besides the same old ‘Harden pounds the ball a million times, then gives to Embiid at the foul line’, which was not working.
So yes, if Nick Nurse had been the coach of the 76ers this year, they would be in the NBA Finals, probably favored against Denver.
As a veteran, NBA championship-winning coach, Doc Rivers should have been running rings around Mazzulla (who might become a good coach one day, he was obviously put in a tough situation this season).
Other long-time NBA coaches Snyder and Spoelstra had their teams competitive and winning games against Boston despite having nowhere near the talent of the Celtics.
The Sixers, with more talent than Atlanta, and definitely Miami, did not rise to the occasion when it presented itself. Maybe Nick Nurse can change that.