The Philadelphia 76ers had a great regular season in which they earned the third seed in the Eastern Conference and made the postseason for the first time since 2012. The 76ers won their first round series against the sixth-seeded Miami Heat 4-1, but got completely outplayed (and outcoached) in the conference semifinals against a scrappy Boston Celtics team.
Before the series began, Philadelphia was the heavy favorite because of injuries to the Celtics as well as the two budding superstars on their roster in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
One aspect a lot of people overlooked was the impact coaching could have on the series. Boston has the best coach in the NBA right now in Brad Stevens, and were able to gain a 3-0 lead because of that, which eventually turned into a 4-1 series win. Stevens has been the steady hand this team needed when both Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving went down. He guided this team to the number two seed in the Eastern Conference with a roster that wasn’t expected to make this much noise in the postseason.
Stevens completely outcoached 76ers Head Coach Brett Brown and it wasn’t even close. Brown failed to put his players in position to succeed or make any adjustments to what Boston was doing on the defensive end.
The Celtics did a great job on defense of closing out on Philadelphia’s shooters and yet the Sixers kept running the same off ball screen motion to try and create space. Boston also forced Ben Simmons out of his comfort zone by packing the paint and sitting on his passes, which led to Simmons averaging 4.4 turnovers per game. This great defensive scheme created by Stevens gave Philadelphia problems offensively.
Brown didn’t have much of a response for the Celtics defensive effort, and it ended up costing his team the series. Playoff basketball is like a chess match for coaches and it seemed like Brown wasn’t interested in making a move. Instead Brown chose to stand pat and watch Boston completely outplay them.
The Sixers have two sure-fire superstars on their team but if they want to maximize their potential they’ll need to find the right head coach to lead the franchise forward.