The Philadelphia 76ers traveled to Phoenix at the end of March for a matchup with the Western Conference-leading Suns. Joel Embiid and company managed to hang around for a majority of the game, but sloppy execution down the stretch led to their downfall. In the end, the Suns walked away with a 114-104 victory.
While Tyrese Maxey finished as the team’s third-leading scorer with 18 points, it was a slow start for the second-year guard. Heading into halftime, he had only two points while shooting 1-for-6 from the floor.
During his postgame media availability, head coach Doc Rivers touched on what he said to Maxey during halftime. He felt his fortunes could turn around if he stayed aggressive and got himself to the rim.
“I just told him at halftime, have your fingernails hit the backboard one time. Just one time… And during the second half, he started attacking and that’s what has to be,” according to USA Today.
Maxey took this advice and put it to work in the second half. Following halftime, he scored 16 points and knocked down a trio of triples to get the Sixers within striking distance late in the game.
Embracing His Scoring Nature
Coming into the NBA, Maxey was never viewed as a traditional point guard. He typically played alongside another ball-handler in the backcourt and made a name for himself with his electric scoring ability.
Prior to the Sixers making a deal for James Harden at the trade deadline, Maxey was thrust into the starting point guard position full-time. Thanks to the help of Rivers and assistant coach Sam Cassell, the 21-year-old developed rapidly and impressed many with his ability to run an offense. Since Harden’s arrival, Maxey has been able to get back to embracing his scoring nature.
With Harden taking over as the maestro of the Sixers’ offense, a lot of responsibility got taken off Maxey’s plate. This resulted in another uptick in his production over the last month. Since the All-Star break, Maxey is averaging 19.0 points per game while shooting 52.1% from the field and 47.1% from beyond the arc.
Given the attention Harden and Joel Embiid garner, it creates mismatches for the players around them. Knowing this, Rivers continues to urge Maxey to maintain a certain level of assertiveness on the offensive end.
Finding Balance Alongside Stars
Finding your lane alongside superstars is never easy, especially for someone in their second season. Earlier in the year, Maxey regularly deferred to Embiid and Tobias Harris when he was point guard. Adding another All-Star into the mix has made things more complicated at times.
There are some instances where it seems Maxey doesn’t want to assert himself out of fear of taking an attempt away from one of the stars. Rivers is aware of the position Maxey is in and continues to reassure him it’s okay to pick his spots when they are there.
“For me as a coach, I just got to keep assuring him that it’s okay to do that. When you’re playing with stars, you’re like, ‘oh my God, I gotta give it to them, no you don’t. You got to give it to them as you can see if you can get to the basket first,” said Rivers Sunday, according to USA Today.
Getting Maxey in a comfortable headspace alongside Embiid and Harden will be crucial for Rivers in this final stretch of the regular season. We’ve seen glimpses of how lethal the Sixers are when all three players get it going offensively. Maxey’s scoring punch will be crucial if they want to fulfill their championship aspirations.