In the 76ers’ first games after James Harden joined the team — remember how they thrashed the Knicks? — there was a lot of talk about how Tyrese Maxey had stepped up and was a perfect No. 3 on a team with title aspirations.
No. 3 may be too low.
Maxey scored 21 points in the third quarter on 7-of-8 shooting, pushing back a Raptors run and keeping the Sixers in control of a game they went on to win 131-111. Maxey finished with 38 points, including hitting 5-of-8 from 3.
HAHAHAHAHAHA TYRESE MAXEY WHAAAAAAAAAT pic.twitter.com/7veTiEw23v
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 17, 2022
The loss is not the worst news for the Raptors — their star rookie Scottie Barnes had to leave the game in the third quarter after Joel Embiid unintentionally stepped on Barnes’ foot and rolled up it and his ankle. X-rays were negative but an MRI on Sunday will tell more, coach Nick Nurse said. It did not look good when it happened.
Scottie Barnes had to be helped off the court after suffering an apparent ankle sprain that Joel Embiid stepped on 😦pic.twitter.com/e1wufpUmFj
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 17, 2022
Barnes scored 15 points in this game — right at his regular season average — plus had eight assists. But, more importantly, Barnes is a key part of the long, switch-everything defense that made the Raptors dangerous the second part of the season.
The Raptors’ other concern out of this game — Fred VanVleet did not look mobile enough to hang with Maxey, leading to VanVleet fouling out. VanVleet is an All-Defensive Team level player, but he battled a sore knee after the All-Star break and missed some time. Maxey makes a lot of people look slow, he is one of the fastest players in the league, but if the Raptors are going to hang in this series they need him to at least not let Maxey dominate stretches.
This game went pretty much perfectly for the Sixers.
Philadelphia only turned the ball over once through the meaningful part of the game (the first 42 minutes). The Sixers also shot 50% from 3 for the game. The 76ers owned the paint for much of the night and had eight offensive rebounds in the first half and 10 for the game — the 76ers got a second chance on almost a quarter of their missed shots (24.4%).
The 76ers also won the non-Joel Embiid minutes (+4).
Tobias Harris had a strong first half with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and he finished the night with 26 points. Toronto had no answer when Embiid when he got the ball at the elbow and faced up — he blew right by or threw everyone guarding him in the first half, scoring 15 and getting to the line nine times. He finished with 19 points and 15 boards. James Harden had 22 points and 14 assists.
Philly was in control and pushed the lead up to 24 when the Raptors started to do what they needed to — get stops, force turnovers and run — and a 12-2 streak had it a game again. Toronto got the lead down to 11, then a couple of missed shots and Harden was doing this.
JAMES HARDEN ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!? pic.twitter.com/XK1WeI0aGr
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 16, 2022
It was then that Maxey took over. It’s not just that he’s fast, but he was quick with his decisions — if Embiid kicked the ball to him as the double came, Maxey shot or drove, but there was no hesitation.
It was exactly the game the 76ers needed to start the series. Now they just need to replicate it.