By Griffin Finch
Going in, this series had the potential to be the most competitive and entertaining series of the postseason. Unfortunately, Brad Stevens is a basketball genius who found holes in the 76ers game plan and exposed them at every opportunity. Philadelphia proved themselves too young to compete with Stevens intellect and were defeated in five games after going down 0-3 in the series.
We thought that the undermanned Celtics squad without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward would not be talented enough to deal with the transcendent talent the 76ers boast in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. While the talent disparity was obvious, what wasn’t obvious was how badly Brett Brown was out coached throughout the series. Simmons and the rest of Philadelphia’s differently talented players are all extremely young so you expect them to make mistakes. That is why I blame the loss in this series firmly on Brett Brown’s shoulders. Whenever Boston made an adjustment Brown was unable to do anything to counter it. Boston exploited the weaknesses of Philly’s best players to perfection. For Ben Simmons, it was making him a scorer and even more specifically a jump shooter. For Embiid, it was making him play with his back to the basket where his foot work is not refined enough to be, but so effective. As a result both played like shells of themselves and were exceptionally turnover prone. Brett Brown was unable to put his guys in positions to succeed. Even situationally late in games Brett Brown would mismanage critical possessions. Considering the fact that most of the games were close down the stretch this proved to be a major downfall for the 76ers. For example, in game two the 76ers led by 22 at one point and after halftime the Celtics started to gain momentum and began to mount a comeback. They were hitting threes and pushing the pace. In response Brett Brown continued to push the pace playing right into the Celtics hands. To make matters worse he called next to no plays and allowed his players to jack up three pointers that were not falling. After this series, I would not be surprised in Brett Brown was relieved of his coaching duties. To be clear, I believe he has done a good enough job this year but if the 76ers management fired him and cited this series as the reason they would certainly be justified in doing so.
The Boston Celtics took this Eastern Conference Semifinals series as an opportunity to show just how far a truly great coach can take you. It is clear to anyone that knows anything about basketball that the 76ers had the more talented roster. But that did not discourage Brad Stevens. Time after time he put his players in positions to succeed. He had Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown playing out of their minds. He had Jayson Tatum, the third overall pick in this years draft looking like a bona fide all star. Brad Stevens played offense through Al Horford which worked to perfection and everyone on the team was playing fiery and tenacious defense. Brad Stevens won this series for Boston and is quickly becoming a coaching superstar.
The improvements the 76ers need to make this offseason are from within. They will be a dramatically better team if Ben Simmons can work to have a respectable mid range jumper at least, and Joel Embiid can improve his foot work and become a real threat with his back to the basket. For Boston, they take on the Cavaliers in the Conference Finals. This will likely be the most entertaining series in this years playoffs. This is because we have learned to never count out Lebron before the Finals, but Brad Stevens is showing that we should always give his team a shot against anybody. This series will be The King versus Brad Stevens and is a match up that we should all be looking forward to.