The Sixers hope to take Game 2 tonight.
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and Philadelphia Sunday SUN
With all the talk about James Harden and Tobias Harris needing to step up their games for the Philadelphia 76ers’ 2022 playoff run, it was second-year guard Tyrese Maxey that had the sell-out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center screaming the loudest during Saturday night’s Game 1 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Among all the 76ers’ well-known stars players including NBA MVP candidate Joel Embiid, Maxey’s star shined brightest on Saturday night. The former Kentucky star was simply unstoppable, leading all scorers with a playoff career-high 38 points.
By the end of the third quarter, the fans were chanting, “Maxey! Maxey! resembled a similar chant in the movie, “Gladiator,” for Russell Crowe’s character Maximus. The Wells Fargo Center transformed itself into the Roman Coliseum.
“(Toronto) was on a run … I just had to be aggressive as I possibly could,” Maxey said.
Maxey was the Sixers’ best warrior in Saturday night’s conquest 131-111 conquest of the Toronto Raptors to take a 1-0 lead in this best of seven NBA First-round series. Game Two will take place tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.
“(Maxey) was great ….His speed is a factor. We know that. We have to keep using it and putting him in space,” Sixers head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers said. “Some nights it may be him driving and passing. Tonight, it was him driving and getting to the basket and making shots.”
On a night when Embiid scored just 19 points for himself, his presence made not only Maxey’s great night possible, but also provided opportunities for Harris who scored 23 points, and Harden who scored 22 points, Rivers said.
“(Embiid’s) presence created a lot of points,” Rivers said. “A lot of those drives (Toronto) made the choice not to help and stay on Joel and that gave us lanes. That’s why he’s so great his presence creates scoring for us.”
In Saturday’s win, it was Maxey’s ability to score from just about anywhere he pleased that put the Sixers in the driver’s seat. It was in the third quarter that Maxey’s scoring prowess sent the sellout crowd at the Wells Fargo Center into an absolute frenzy.
“Honestly, I just went out there and tried my best to help my teammates,” Maxey said. “That’s what I do every single night. … They told me that I need to be aggressive in this series and tried to start out fast for us.”
Maxey scored 21 points in the third quarter on 7-of-18 shooting, the second-most points in a postseason quarter since Allen Iverson’s 26 against the Milwaukee Bucks in 2001. After Toronto reduced a 24-point lead 76ers lead to 11, point guard James Harden helped get the Sixers’ engine going again with a three-point basket and driving lay-up.
After that Harden just kept putting the ball in Maxey’s hands and the second-year emerging star delivered in a huge way. Harden threw a hard bounce pass to Maxey who scooped up the ball and put it in the basket.
“When he’s running, you gotta reward him,” Harden said. “He’s a great finisher. He makes right plays. … When you got a guy like Tyrese who got it going, you have to make sure he gets shots …He was knocking down shots and then for him getting to the paint.”
Harden said what he’s learned about Maxey since he was traded to the Sixers back in late February is that he’s coachable and willing to learn.
“Tyrese is great and he has game,” Harden said. “He works his butt off. I try to help him when I need to. He listens. We got other great coaches and great leaders. He gets it. He understands it. When you put the work in, great things happen for you. (Saturday night) was a great testament to that.”
With Game 2 on the horizon, Maxey said he is not going to dwell too much on the accolades and adulation of the crowd from Saturday’s win. He knows that Toronto is going to make some adjustments when the two teams meet on the court Monday night.
“Honestly, I appreciate it, but the only thing I’m going to remember is us winning and that’s all that matters,” Maxey said. “Now it’s in my rear mirror. I’m going to look ahead to Game 2 and get focused and be prepared.”
Tip-off for tonight’s game at the Wells Fargo Center is at 7:30 p.m.. You can catch the game on TNT and NBC Sports Philadelphia.