PHILADELPHIA — Ahead of Monday night’s game between the 76ers and Heat, Joel Embiid — who, along with James Harden, would face Eastern Conference leaders Miami — told sophomore guard Tyrese Maxey to make Philadelphia win in his absence.
“I told him I had it,” Maxey said.
Maxey wasn’t kidding.
Thanks to a flurry of 13 points in the fourth quarter – pushing him to 28 points on the night – as well as a dramatic chase block on a layup from Caleb Martin in the final moments, Maxey stayed true to his word and powered the 76ers to a stunning 113-106 victory in front of a packed Wells Fargo Center.
It was only 24 hours earlier that Philadelphia (44-27), playing with a full roster, lost to a Toronto Raptors team missing two starters. Monday night, however, the tables were turned, with a team shorthanded Philadelphia who won at Miami (47-25) throughout the contest, including getting 20 points from Shake Milton and 18 from Furkan Korkmaz on the bench.
But the story of the game was undoubtedly Maxey, the sophomore lightning bolt who became a more than capable starting point guard when Ben Simmons opted to stay away from the team amid a trade demand. Maxey has seamlessly transformed into a perfect third option alongside Embiid and Harden following the latter’s arrival in last month’s blockbuster with the Brooklyn Nets.
On Monday, however, Maxey was the leading man here in Philadelphia, nailing two huge treys to give the Sixers a split on the stretch before running back to crush Martin’s breakaway layup attempt with 21 seconds left. do to officially put away the win.
“I’m always going to have fun, no matter the circumstances, Maxey said. I wake up in the morning and make a living playing basketball. It’s a beautiful thing. I thank the Lord every day, every day. a only night and every time before entering the field, so I’m always going to have fun.
“But the crowd, the Philadelphia crowd, every time I look on the sheet after the game, it says sold out. It’s an amazing feeling. For them to come even when your two superstars aren’t playing and show the determination, the just will to rally behind us, it’s a very good feeling.”
It was that same crowd that, as the bench – led by Embiid – erupted with every highlight of Maxey on the stretch, began chanting Maxey’s name as the final seconds counted down.
“He’s just not scared,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s so comfortable in the moment. I guess as much as he works, you know, he’s put so much work into his game, he feels pretty comfortable in any position. You work, the harder you work, the more confident you are. I think that’s a great testament to Tyrese Maxey.”
The win — coupled with the Boston Celtics’ victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder — put Philadelphia, Boston and the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-way tie for second in the East, 2.5 games behind the Heat. the league. Milwaukee is a percentage point ahead of Boston, though, thanks to playing two fewer games and having one fewer loss.)
It certainly wasn’t what fans who showed up here were expecting after Embiid was ruled out early Monday afternoon after initially being listed as questionable for a fourth straight game with back pain. Harden was later ruled out with a right hamstring recovery hours later.
But thanks to Maxey, who relentlessly attacked Miami’s Tyler Herro in the fourth quarter with straight-line drives down the right side of the hoop, a deflated Philadelphia team that 24 hours earlier lost a game to a Toronto team in understaffed turned into an overjoyed after doing the same thing in reverse in Miami.
“Maxey played really well, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. He was on his right hand all night. he would stand on his right and get to where he wanted to go.”