CAMDEN, N.J. — A day before a crucial series closeout opportunity against the rival Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers tried to co-opt his opponent’s greatest advantage for Thursday’s Game 6.
Rivers openly warned his team during meetings Wednesday about the Celtics’ recent success in this spot — specifically Boston’s huge Game 6 road victory in Milwaukee last season when facing elimination in this same Eastern Conference quarterfinals round.
The Celtics, who dropped Game 5 to the 76ers on Tuesday night in Boston to be pushed to the brink of elimination, also won a road Game 7 in Miami last season. Both came after demoralizing home defeats as the 76ers just delivered themselves behind 33 points from reigning league MVP Joel Embiid and 30 from guard Tyrese Maxey to take a 3-2 series lead.
Rivers hoped by making it a major talking point he could perhaps get the Sixers to match the edge the Celtics have repeatedly shown in this position. Over the past two postseasons, the Celtics are 6-1 after home losses and 3-1 when those games are on the road, including a win to close out the Hawks in Atlanta in this year’s first round.
“We all look for stuff [for motivation], we talked openly about it as a group,” Rivers said. “Well, they’ve done this and so they’re going to come in with confidence, and we got to be ready for that. You got to get to four [wins] and you haven’t done anything. And we talked about that a lot today.”
Rivers said the film study before Wednesday’s light workout focused on the amount of open 3-pointers the Celtics were able to generate but failed to make. Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said he felt his team missed 10 “wide-open” 3-pointers in the first half of Tuesday’s 115-103 loss. Boston finished the game 12-of-38 (32%) on 3-pointers but was just 9-of-33 before pulling its starters.
That’s been a bellwether this season for the Celtics, who are 34-2 when they shoot better than 40% from 3-point range and just 29-28 when they shoot under 40%.
“You can’t get too comfortable, period. You really can’t — and if we do, we don’t win,” Rivers said. “In the playoffs, there’s no such thing as comfort.”
Rivers confirmed that Embiid took off the brace on his right knee, which he covered with tights, during Game 5 for the first time since suffering a sprain three weeks ago. It helped Embiid feel a little more free, as he was able to be more aggressive going to the basket, earning 11 free throws.
“The trainers just want to monitor it and if there’s anything they’ll put it back on,” Rivers said. “But he got through it and he was fine today, so we’re good.”
This story originally appeared on ESPN