The Sixers (43-35) visited the San Antonio Spurs (19-58) on Sunday. Philadelphia wanted to keep pace in the battle for the six-seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. San Antonio wanted to make that more difficult for the Sixers and win its second game in a row. Tyrese Maxey set a new career-high with 52 points, along with seven assists and five rebounds, to power the Sixers to a 133-126 victory in double overtime.

Before we get to what I saw, some notes.

Contextual Notes

The Sixers were without the services of Joel Embiid, who had the second leg of the back-to-back off as part of his left knee injury recovery program.

Tobias Harris missed the game with a left knee contusion. Kyle Lowry was out on scheduled rest.

De'Anthony Melton remained out with bone stress in his lumbar spine. As did Robert Covington, who has a bone bruise in his left knee.

Nick Nurse started Tyrese Maxey, Cam Payne, Kelly Oubre Jr., Nico Batum, and Paul Reed.

The Spurs were without the services of Devin Vassell, who is out for the season with a stress reaction in his right third metatarsal head. Jeremy Sochan was out with a left ankle impingement.

Cedi Osman has a sprained right ankle and was out. Dominick Barlow has a bone bruise in his left knee and was not available.

Charles Bassey was out with a torn left ACL.

Gregg Popovich started Tre Jones, Malaki Branham, Julian Champagnie, Keldon Johnson, and Victor Wembanyama.


- The stability and direction the Sixers had through the first 15-or-so minutes of this game was backed entirely by Maxey and Oubre. Maxey glided to the basket, throttling isolated defenders off balance by going from roaming mode to 75 miles per hour in the snap of a finger and beating added ball pressure on screen actions by bursting through divots in the scheme to attack the middle of the floor. He leveraged his ability to change speeds to get into the paint for floaters and shots at the rim, offering some of the few high-quality looks the Sixers got at the basket.

As mentioned, Oubre was the other tent pole, supporting the offense with scores all over the floor. His perimeter game was working, but he didn't fall in love with the deep ball at the expense of better value elsewhere. He attacked size in space, rising up for midrange jumpers off the dribble because he knew he could shoot over the Spur in his way. Oubre will never be fearful of anything or anyone when the ball is in his hands, and Wembanyama was not going to be the exception to that characterization. Oubre took it at him for finishes off the drive. You knew Oubre was locked in when he cut backdoor for a beautiful dunk along the baseline on one possession, sensing the defense overplaying and capitalizing for an easy bucket.

- When the Sixers were humming in the first quarter and change, the defensive strategy supported the offensive approach. Philadelphia did a really good job of preying on San Antonio's youth, getting hands in the driving lanes to jar the ball away on the dribble and tipping away or flat-out intercepting errant passes to get stops. But, more than that, they made the Spurs take a lot of jumpers by staying connected on screens and helping each other on drives. Even with Philadelphia's lack of size, San Antonio's shot selection suggested they didn't see obvious avenues to get to the basket.

They didn't hunt the rim when driving close-outs, instead stepping into long twos and leaving a lot of space unused. They settled for awkward, early-clock threes, too. Some of that is personnel; I'd venture to say that a couple of Spurs to log minutes in this game wouldn't see the floor in a high-leverage moment because of their decision-making. Some of that is youth and the freedom that they probably have to be themselves on a team that has its eyes on the lottery in the final week of the season.

The Sixers did not just roll over and die at the rim despite their size disadvantage. The Spurs got them a handful of times with plays on the glass, but Philadelphia's defense on the first shot was good early on and a significant reason why the Sixers jumped out to an early double-digit lead.

- Before Tuesday's win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Nurse mentioned that he wasn't particularly concerned with seeding in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. But, with the Miami Heat losing to the Indiana Pacers right as the first quarter of this game came to a close, the Sixers had a chance to move up to the seven-seed with a win on Sunday. Then, with a very easy schedule to close the regular season, the Sixers would have a chance to avoid the Play-In tournament entirely or guarantee themselves homecourt advantage in it if they couldn't avoid it.

Perhaps Nurse does not care where the team finishes in the standings, but Maxey didn't seem to feel that way. Nurse told reporters in San Antonio that Maxey declined opportunities to rest, making it clear that the game really mattered to him. His play did all the talking.

Maxey scored 38 of his new career-high 52 points after intermission. He never quite found the three-point touch. It didn't matter one iota. On the second night of a back-to-back (he didn't play his regular minute load on Saturday), as regulation passed into the first overtime and the first overtime into the second overtime, Maxey's teammates followed his lead. He lined up one-on-one matchups on the right wing, drawing the switch he wanted and going to work.

Maxey didn't shy away from traffic in the paint, not even when Wembanyama lurked. If the jumper wasn't there, he pressured the rim and did his best to navigate the Spurs standing between him and another bucket. Maxey came alive just when it seemed the Sixers were dead, the deficit growing to seven points with less than two minutes left in regulation.

He laced a step-back three to bring the deficit to four points; just one play on a string that saw him create 12 straight points to force overtime. Like the true star he has become this season, Maxey didn't just call his own number. He read the floor when all the attention was on him, beating the Spurs' defensive coverages to find open teammates. On the Sixers' second-to-last possession of regulation, he beat some light shading out of a Batum screen by feeding the veteran forward a three that put the Sixers in front with less than 10 seconds to play.

By my math, Maxey scored or assisted on 21 of the team's 27 points between the last 1:40 of regulation and the middle of the second overtime. Whether he admits it or not, it was clear his body was feeling the fatigue of a career-high 53:57 of game time. The Sixers needed every second and every point of those new high-water marks. But, to finish the job, he needed just a little bit of help from anyone.

- Ricky Council IV stepped up to help alleviate the burden on Maxey. After freezing on the bench for the entire first half, Council gave the Sixers 22 minutes in the second half and both overtimes. He replaced Reed, who fouled out on the last Spurs possession of regulation, and didn't depart the game until the final buzzer.

Council remains a bit of a wild card in that you never know what he's going to do next. But, he processes the game on the move quite well for an undrafted free agent, and he knows how to weaponize downhill pressure. His lone basket in overtime came on a baseline cut and feed from Maxey, finishing over Wembanyama and earning the foul. He had a pair of critical assists out of drives in the two overtimes; one to KJ Martin for a dunk to tie the game with 24 seconds left in the first overtime, and one on a kick-out to the weak-side corner for a Batum three that effectively iced the victory for Philadelphia.

When it looked like the Sixers were running out of gas, Council gave them a final burst to secure a critical win.


- Things started to go awry as soon as Maxey hit the bench in the second quarter. Without Embiid (and Harris), there obviously wasn't much individual creativity in the minutes Maxey rested. So, the game swung towards the team that had Wembanyama. Shocker! The bad passes, low-quality shots against the Spurs' star rookie at the rim, and live-ball turnovers aided transition play for San Antonio.

I don't realistically expect much from those groups when the Sixers lack the top-of-rotation depth to stagger their offensive firepower. But, you have to help your own cause. Taking runners as Wembanyama eats up space in front of you is not good use of possessions. Attacking the rim when Wembanyama is already in position is also ill-advised.

There's a line to be walked when suggesting that players shouldn't take certain shots. In a vacuum, shots at the rim usually are valuable. But, you also have to read the room and understand who you're going at. Taking the ball to the rim against a guy who has half of a foot or more on you is just low-odds basketball. Not only did possessions end with the same guys shooting over and over again, but they ended in the same ways over and over again.

The offense didn't suddenly recover when Maxey returned in the middle of the second quarter. There were far too many possessions that ended without Maxey getting the ball in positions to make plays and without the Sixers, as a five-man unit, running plays with purpose. They lost all of their organization, and they spent the entire second half of regulation fighting to get back into the game.

- Slip-ups on defense are to be expected. But, there were defensive sequences in which the Sixers simply failed to know their personnel. Biting at shot-fakes from credible shooters is fine. Jumping at fakes from guys who aren't truly dangerous shooters is not. You might as well roll out the red carpet in the paint. If you have nothing for Wembanyama in single coverage, you have to take away dribble penetration elsewhere.

The Sixers (44-35) will host the Detroit Pistons (13-65) on Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., Eastern time. You can watch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

10 People with ties to Cape May County to name the parkway rest stop after

More From 97.3 ESPN