A question for the portion of Sixers fans who do not want to run it back:

Most people would say that the Celtics had more talent than the Sixers.

Are we sure?

They had a better bench and some high-end star power, but the Sixers were up 3-2 in the series and five minutes away from the Eastern Conference Finals. Did they blow it because of a lack of talent? Don’t think so. They blew it because Joel Embiid and James Harden weren’t good enough when it mattered. They blew it because the Celtics had more dawg in them, which surfaced in the series’ final five quarters.

So it really leads us into two questions here:

  1. Does firing Doc Rivers and bringing in Nick Nurse make enough of a difference to get this same group over the hump?
  2. Can you impart dawg into a player that currently does not have any dawg?

These really go hand in hand. Most Sixers fans would agree that Doc Rivers had to go, and you’ll get a more hands-on guy in Nick Nurse who might be able to squeeze additional value out of the margins. Maybe he pushes Embiid to that tier 1 playoff platform, or makes enough tactical tweaks to get them over the hump. You can mess with rotations and play design and load manage Embiid in the way Nurse and the Raptors handled Kawhi a few years ago. Perhaps those fringe things add up to make enough of an on-court difference.

Because I look back at that Celtics series and don’t think they lost because the roster wasn’t good enough. If they didn’t have enough talent, they wouldn’t have been up 3-2 at home in the first place. Boston certainly got more from players four through eight, but the top-end group of Embiid, Harden, Maxey, and Harris was good enough to get to the conference finals.

You always reach a point in any big moment where intangibles come into play, right? Can your guys hit a clutch shot? Can they play at a high level in the fourth quarter? Can they power through negative results and move on to the next possession? Or are we getting slumped shoulders and defeated looks?

That’s the topic that’s most interesting. If we’re trying to talk ourselves into the Sixers running it back, that’s the focal point, because the talent level arguably is there. You’re really asking yourself if there’s enough heart, dawg, guts, grit, attitude, etc. Pick whatever word you want to use. If one or more of those can be infused into these guys, then running it back with a 54-win team may be palatable.

We discussed this on Crossing Broadcast: