Maxey’s career-high lifts Sixers in thriller vs Jazz: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (29-17) visited the Utah Jazz (24-25) on Thursday. Philadelphia desperately wanted to snap a four-game losing streak. Utah wanted to end a two-game snag of their own. Tyrese Maxey scored a career-high 51 points to power the Sixers to a 127-124 victory in a thriller.
Before we get to the game, some context.
The Sixers were without the services of Joel Embiid, who has a lateral meniscus injury in his left knee. According to a team official, Embiid will be out through the weekend while a treatment plan is finalized.
Nico Batum has a tight left hamstring and was not available. De'Anthony Melton is recovering from a stress response to lumbar spine soreness and was out.
Marcus Morris Sr. has plantar fasciitis in his left foot and was out. Robert Covington remained out with a bone bruise in his left knee.
Kenny Lofton Jr. remained out due to personal reasons.
Nick Nurse started Tyrese Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., Danuel House Jr., Tobias Harris, and Paul Reed.
The Jazz were without the services of Johnny Juzang, Micah Potter, and Jason Preston, who are on two-way assignments with Utah's G League affiliate.
Will Hardy started Kris Dunn, Collin Sexton, Simone Fontecchio, Lauri Markkanen, and John Collins.
- On the night he officially graduated from high-level role player to all-star, Maxey gave the Sixers the sort of offensive lift that they desperately needed after the slogs that were the Portland and Golden State games. Especially with the news of Embiid's meniscus injury just a few hours old. His team needed a star-level talent to set the tone with the big guy out for an unspecified period of time, and Maxey was more than game to answer.
Unlike in the first matchup between these two teams, Maxey found an early rhythm by finding driving corners off the catch when the ball swung his way. In the game in Philadelphia, possessions started with Maxey. Dunn was able to apply high pressure and the Jazz defended in box-and-one to keep Maxey quiet.
This time, while possessions started with Maxey, the ball came back to the Sixers star in positions to attack, with the nearest defenders not in place to stay square with the ball. He got an open look from deep to give the Sixers a made triple early in the game, and then built some momentum for himself with a couple of drives.
- You knew you were watching something special once Maxey's third triple fell, a step-back missile over Dunn that caused a court-side fan to fall out of his chair in amazement. Maxey made all six of his attempts from beyond the arc in the first half. He took advantage of what was frankly a bizarre game plan.
The Jazz were too comfortable with zone, which is not an island to die on when you're getting lit up from three. And beyond that, they charged rookie guard Keyonte George with defending Maxey. Rookie guards typically don't have the muscle to fight through screens from bigger players, and you can break a zone by having a big screen the ball just as the swing pass to the shooter is made. If the defender at the top of the zone doesn't know the screen is coming, it effectively becomes a pick-and-roll in which the ball defender goes under the screen and thus surrenders an open three to the handler.
But, there were a couple of heat-checks from Maxey that found the nylon, too. 32 at halftime for the newly-minted all-star. To borrow an iconic quote from Brett Brown, he was the adult in the gym at a time when the Sixers desperately needed one.
- There were a couple of moments in which Nurse's tactical mind stepped into the spotlight. First, he properly adjusted to the Jazz devouring Philadelphia with a heavy dose of two-man game in the first quarter. Nurse went to zone, making it more difficult to run pick-and-roll and create dribble penetration.
Then, his team adapted to a Jazz adjustment beautifully in the second quarter. Utah went away from zone after Maxey torched them from three, instead opting to go to man and switch ball screens. They wanted to apply higher ball pressure and mitigate dribble penetration. There was no panic on Philadelphia's end; they knew just what to do.
Harris stepped up to screen for Maxey, drawing George on the switch. The Sixers had them right where they wanted them. Maxey was in the middle of a heater, but the team's direction would not be sacrificed for the sake of him shooting until the flame died. He went right to Harris, who was in bully ball position above the foul line, Maxey effectively acted as the bait, setting his teammate up to hunt a mismatch.
Finally, the Jazz came out of halftime in a box-and-one. That is, the Jazz turned the Sixers' offense into a 4-on-4 while Dunn face-guarded Maxey separately. That strategy frustrated Maxey in the matchup in Philadelphia earlier in the season. But, the Sixers countered by running Maxey through Iverson actions - staggered screens above the elbows with Maxey sprinting from one wing to the other to shed the defender and catch the ball.
It didn't actually yield much of a result. Maxey didn't so easily continue where he left off in the third quarter. But, a nice tactical move to try to free things up a bit.
- Really gutsy shooting from Oubre in the fourth quarter. The entire frame was a back-and-forth slugfest, and Oubre hit some big threes to keep the Jazz at bay.
- The Jazz are stacked in the frontcourt and they can cobble together some good playmaking from their ball-handlers on a night-to-night basis. So, no shocker they hurt the Sixers in the two-man game without Embiid there to protect the basket. But, the silly fouls at the rim are driving me crazy. If your contact isn't going to stop the basket, just let it go.
- These two teams went back and forth all second half. But, the Sixers gave themselves a very slim margin of error with some decision-making woes from their role players. House chucked a transition three early in a possession. Off the mark. Reed took a left-handed floater with a lot of time left on the shot clock. Both of those errant shots came with the guy in the midst of a 51-point binge on the court, by the way. Then, Jaden Springer fouled Kelly Olynyk on a three to end the third quarter. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
- I'm sure Maxey deferred a bit as fatigue naturally set in down the stretch, but how do you, as a lineup, do so little to get him the ball in crunch time? They were so close to coughing this game up, and it would've been in the aftermath of the best player on the team barely touching the ball in the final quarter.
- The decision to overturn the foul on Oubre's missed dunk in the final 20 seconds was absolutely insane. Please, spare me with the "marginal contact" garbage. Is the forearm part of the ball now? Did I miss that memo?
- Real good game from Mo Bamba, but what the hell were he and Collins thinking going at it after the Harris free throws? What if only one gets a technical foul? The game is hanging in the balance and those two are going chest to chest during a timeout. How long have they been in the league now?
The Sixers (30-17) will host the Brooklyn Nets (19-28) on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the action on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
17 Restaurants is visit in Avalon, NJ - Alphabetical Order
Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig/Townsquare Media