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The Philadelphia 76ers have the tools necessary to compete for an NBA championship this season. Joel Embiid is still one of the most unguardable offensive forces in the league, James Harden looks like his old self again, and this roster is deeper, meaner, and more talented than it’s been in years.

The problem? Their head coach still doesn’t know how to maximize their potential.

Doc Rivers hasn’t been able to lead the Sixers past the second round of the playoffs in his two seasons at the helm, and we saw the same flaws show up during Tuesday night’s season-opening loss to the Boston Celtics. If Rivers can’t change his approach to coaching this team, Philadelphia is bound to suffer another early playoff exit.

Doc Rivers is still a liability for the Sixers

Another season, another frustrating coaching performance from Rivers.

The Sixers didn’t do their head coach any favors in Tuesday night’s 126-117 loss to the rival Celtics. They turned the ball over 14 times, got outscored 24-2 in fastbreak points, and allowed Boston to shoot 56.1% from the field on its way to 126 points.

But Rivers didn’t help matters from the sideline. The Sixers got sliced up on the defensive end all night, yet their best defensive stopper, Matisse Thybulle, played just 23 seconds in garbage time. Rivers made minimal defensive adjustments as he watched the Celtics play up-tempo all game and dominate in transition.

Paul Reed, the team’s best rim protector not named Embiid, didn’t see the floor once. Montrezl Harrell has evidently locked up the backup center job, but he isn’t an upgrade over Reed, especially on the defensive end.

On the offensive end, Tyrese Maxey needs more touches as the primary ball-handler. He was stationed in the corner far too often, and when Rivers finally did let him run the offense late in the second half, Maxey looked great in the pick-and-roll and had his best scoring stretch of the game.

Oh, and Embiid has faced off against the Celtics 19 times in the regular season. Boston has been the most aggressive team in terms of doubling him off the first dribble, and Rivers continues to have no plan to combat it. Embiid settled for six threes Tuesday night, and his most successful possessions came on mid-range jumpers in isolation.

This is the same old Rivers we’ve seen for the last two years, and it’s simply not good enough.

What Rivers needs to change to maximize the 76ers’ potential

Doc Rivers looks on during a game against the Hornets.
Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts during a game against the Charlotte Hornets | Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

WATCH: James Harden Makes a Fool of Himself in the 76ers’ Opening Night Loss to the Celtics

This Sixers team is talented enough to win a title in 2023, but that can’t happen unless Rivers changes his ways.

Maxey needs to share primary ball-handling duties with Harden. Thybulle and Reed need to see the court if Philadelphia is serious about becoming one of the better defensive teams in the NBA. Rivers needs to find a way to make the offense work when Embiid is seeing constant double-teams.

Talent won’t be enough to lead the Sixers to their ultimate goal. They need a head coach who can maximize their potential instead of limit it, and if Rivers can’t prove that he can accomplish that, he won’t make it through the season.

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