A 3-1 series lead doesn't guarantee a second-round appearance, which is why Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown doesn't want his players to be their own worst enemy in Tuesday's potential closeout game against the Brooklyn Nets.
"There's no secret how this game tomorrow will be played, given the complaints that have surfaced in regards to refereeing and what inevitably will be sort of the reaction to the game," Brown said Monday, according to ESPN's Dave McMenamin.
Philadelphia All-Star center Joel Embiid has already been assessed a pair of flagrant fouls for excessive contact on Nets big man Jarrett Allen and would receive an automatic one-game suspension with two more flagrant points to his name. Embiid's hard foul on Allen in Game 4 instigated a scuffle between the two teams and resulted in ejections for both Jared Dudley and Jimmy Butler.
"I want to get ahead of that as the coach. Anticipate different things like that," Brown continued. "Share stories with my team so we can just stay very linear, very straight line. Just play through noise, and that's what interests me the most in how to close out a series."
Embiid joked after Saturday's Game 4 victory in Brooklyn that he didn't want his Sixers to repeat the sins of the 2016 Golden State Warriors by blowing a 3-1 series lead. But Brown knows from experience how technicals, flagrants, and suspensions can haunt a team.
"It's the discipline that we have to have," the coach said. "I've told this group candidly, I sat on the bench in San Antonio (in 2007) when Robert Horry hip-checked (Steve) Nash into the stands and Amar'e (Stoudemire) and Boris (Diaw) walked onto the court. And we weren't beating them. I think they were winning the NBA championship.
"We remember Draymond (Green) stepping over LeBron (James). And they're up 3-1 and they lost the series (in 2016). So it's not holding your breath. There are reminders that I owe my players as the coach to have them be adults, be big boys and navigate through this. It's not our fault at times we're 20 pounds heavier and 3 inches taller (like Embiid versus Allen). And so, in the meantime, we just got to be smarter and that's my job."