Doc Rivers Explains How Sixers Biggest Stars Can Co-Exist

Tyrese Maxey, Joel Embiid

Getty Sixers stars Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey are learning how to mesh in the absence of Ben Simmons.

Tyrese Maxey’s youthful energy and play-making ability has made people quickly forget about Ben Simmons. The new starting point guard for the Philadelphia 76ers can be electric with the ball in his hands.

Take one highlight-reel sequence from Wednesday’s game where he scored two fourth-quarter buckets in 30 seconds. No other player in the league can cook like that. Maxey is the NBA version of an Instant Pot. He finished with 27 points and five assists against Miami, including 15 points in the second half.

But it hasn’t always been easy for the Sixers to figure out how to mesh Maxey with Embiid. The team is at its best when the offense is running through their All-Star center. That means more pick-and-rolls and less improvisation. Head coach Doc Rivers has to keep reminding the second-year guard that he’s a facilitator first.

“I think we’re all starting to grow into our roles and learning when to attack and when to run the offense through Joel,” Maxey said. “You know it’s a work in progress, a learning experience, and it’s just going to keep getting better and better.”

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Losing Games When Maxey Scores Points

It’s been hard to get the Sixers’ offense flowing since Embiid has missed 11 out of 29 games. When the big man isn’t out there, Maxey has been their top scoring option – more by necessity than design. He has 21 double-figure scoring halves on the year. But the Sixers have lost the majority of games when Maxey leads them in points.

“I’m not that concerned about Tyrese’s scoring. I’m more concerned with Tyrese being a playmaker and getting in the paint, scoring and passing,” Rivers said. “But clearly he’s not going to get the same amount of points in games where [Joel] plays and we lose. I think that’s what we lose sight of. We lose those games.”

Then there’s the issue of getting looks for Seth Curry and Tobias Harris. It’s simple math, according to Rivers. They need to find a way to make all the puzzle pieces fit.

“I told someone before the game, they were saying, ‘how can we get Tyrese to score the same amount of points when Joel plays? I said, ‘you can’t, guys, just do math.’ Like the last game against Memphis, Tyrese scored a lot of points. We didn’t have Joel. We didn’t have Seth.”

Maxey jacked up 17 shots against Memphis and scored 23 points. Those numbers probably would have been higher if the game hadn’t gotten out of hand.

“So you put Joel and Seth on the floor they’re probably going to take some of his attempts away,” Rivers said. “We want to win games with Tyrese being effective. With Joel being effective. With Seth being effective. And with Tobias [Harris] being effective.”

Rivers Keeps Challenging Maxey

Rivers has traditionally challenged his point guards in the media. He did it all the time to Rajon Rondo in Boston. Obviously Simmons faced some of his wrath in Philly. Now he is doing it to Maxey.

The savvy coach praised the way Maxey got teammates involved in the second half versus Miami, although he couldn’t help throw criticism at him for the first half. He needs to be more decisive. He needs to make the extra pass. He needs to dribble and attack.

“It was great but you know we urged him like ‘Tyrese we swing the ball to you,'” Rivers said. “I think the first two times he swung the ball and then shot a three and then just held it. In the second half every time he swung, he put it back on the floor.”

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