BOSTON — Tyrese Maxey’s struggles against the Boston Celtics persisted during the Philadelphia 76ers’ regular season and into the 2023 NBA playoffs. When the Sixers really needed him, he stepped up with a monster performance against the team that had pushed him around all season long.
Maxey’s 30 points, which included 12 in the fourth quarter, from Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals highlighted a great performance from the Sixers. Joel Embiid had 33 points, Harden didn’t stuff the stat sheet but orchestrated the offense well and the role player around them did their jobs. Harden not only had 17 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and two steals but also one key pep talk that helped get Maxey going.
“Yeah, James was really irritated with me because it was a couple of possessions where I gave the ball up early,” Maxey said. “And he’s like, ‘Dude, you got it. You know who you are. Just be Tyrese, man. They can’t be allowed to guard me still if I’m setting my body still and Joel’s body and you have all the space and not create.’ He’s been on me since he got here, since he landed in Philly, about being aggressive, about being myself and about helping the team and, you know, I appreciate him for that.”
Staying aggressive has always been the name of the game for Maxey. It’s what Embiid always reminds him to do when he can’t get anything going. Being passive means holding the Sixers offense back, whether he gets the ball swung to him after Embiid and Harden try to crack the defense or when he has the ball in his hands like he did at the end of the game.
Doc Rivers said he had Maxey handle the ball more down the stretch of Game 5 because he felt like his quickness would help him fare well against the Celtics’ high-pressure defense. He said that ball movement got him good catch-and-shoot looks, thus feeding his confidence which led to a great performance.
“It’s a barometer for us. If Tobias [Harris] and Maxey are involved, that means the ball is moving. If Tobias and Max are not involved, it means the ball is not moving. And the ball moved today,” the Sixers’ head coach said. Harris scored 16 points on 70 percent shooting, the highest field goal percentage he has ever had in a playoff game.
Tyrese Maxey did admit to one factor that sometimes makes it hard to keep looking for his shot and keeping the defense honest: he’s not one of the Sixers’ top two options. He said that it’s all about “knowing when to pick your spots and be aggressive because I still got Joel, James and Tobias out there. So, I got to be careful when I shoot. When I shoot sometimes and I miss, they’re on me. And then I shoot and I make it and they say, ‘Great shot.’”
But, with a smile on his face, Maxey said that his older Sixers teammates are of tremendous importance to him. “I love them to death, man,” he continued. “They just tell me to keep being aggressive and that’s all you can ask for – teammates like them.”
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