Bucks fans are overreacting to Doc Rivers' playoff record: 2020
The 2019-20 season was Doc Rivers' final season with the Los Angeles Clippers and yes, he did have Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and yes, the Clippers did hold a 3-1 lead. However, the Clippers ran into the Denver Nuggets and the buzzsaw that was Nikola Jokic, and the bubble version of Jamal Murray was a madman who went toe-to-toe with Damian Lillard in some of the most entertaining basketball games in a long time.
In their seven game series with the Clippers, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic combined to average 47 points, 17.8 rebounds, 13 assists, two steals and 1.5 blocks. Jokic shot 51.5 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from the 3-point line and 81.5 percent from the free throw line. Murray shot 44.7 percent from the field, 43.8 percent from the 3-point line and 90.5 percent from the free throw line.
If you want to call this a choke, go ahead, however, you have to at the very least give Jokic and Murray their flowers for how well they played.
Bucks fans are overreacting to Doc Rivers' playoff record: 2021 and 2023
Doc Rivers led the Philadelphia 76ers to the playoffs twice in his short stint there and dealt with constantly shifting pieces. In 2021 the 76ers held a 2-1 lead over the Atlanta Hawks, hardly a stranglehold on the series and eventually lost. Milwaukee Bucks fans know what happened to the Hawks after that.
The 76ers and Hawks went to a Game 7 and though Joel Embiid was the best player in the series, Trae Young was not far behind. The Hawks had good balance throughout their lineup. It is at least fair to mention that the 76ers were down 3-2 and forced a Game 7 when they could have just accepted their eventual fate of elimination.
The biggest potential takeaway from the Game 7 of this series is that the 76ers allowed two shooters, Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari go off, combining for 44 points. So if the Milwaukee Bucks and their fans are looking to learn something from Doc Rivers' playoff history, defending shooters in clutch games could be something.
Then in 2023, I have a really hard time calling this a choke to the Boston Celtics for holding a 3-2 lead. Honestly, Doc Rivers deserves credit for getting that team that far given the amount of disfunction coming from the James Harden situation. The 76ers took the eventual Eastern Conference Champions to seven games as the third seed.
Jayson Tatum absolutely detonated in Game 7, dropping 51 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two steals. Joel Embiid and James Harden combined scored 24 points on 8-of-29 field goal shooting and 1-for-9 3-point shooting. So if you want to put last year's playoff exit on Doc Rivers, fine, but acknowledge Jayson Tatum for stepping up and recognize that Joel Embiid and James Harden shrunk big time in an elimination game.
The Milwaukee Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, two guys who are better than Joel Embiid and James Harden, especially where the playoffs are concerned. Doc Rivers has not had a duo as strong and Giannis and Dame, not to mention having Khris Middleton as a third option is very helpful given his playoff performance and championship acumen. Also, the Milwaukee Bucks have a strong defensive anchor and floor spacer in Brook Lopez and then role players with championship experience in Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis.
Make what you want about Doc Rivers' playoff history, but the context is extremely important, as well as acknowledging that this year's Milwaukee Bucks roster is the best team that Doc Rivers has ever had.