December 10, 2023

Takeaways after Tyrese Maxey shines in 76ers win to close out regular season


AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The Philadelphia 76ers’ regular-season finale included no stars. Tyrese Maxey was glad to take on that role for the night, though. Maxey was excellent Sunday, posting 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting, seven rebounds, and six assists. The Sixers beat the Orlando Magic, 128-117, to end the regular season with a 49-23 record.

Every usual Sixers starter sat out Sunday’s game for various minor injury or injury recovery reasons. The team eliminated all risk of anything disastrous happening in Game 72. Matisse Thybulle (left hand swelling) missed a fourth consecutive game, too.

Here’s three takeaways:

Maxey shines

Maxey started for the eighth time this season and matched up against fellow rookie Cole Anthony, who scored 37 points on 10-for-25 shooting. 

With the exception of an early drive on which he lost control of the ball, Maxey was tremendous offensively in the first half. He only required four field-goal attempts to score 11 points in the first quarter.

The 20-year-old’s level of play didn’t stop at all in the second quarter. He started 9-for-9 from the floor, with his first miss a driving layup in a 2-for-1 situation. His speed is exceptional and exciting, but Maxey’s understanding of how to change gears and shield off defenders with his body has developed well throughout his rookie season. He’s a sturdy 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and possesses the tools to get where he wants to go on the floor. 

Garbage time regulars show a lot of effort

Maxey was joined in the starting lineup by Shake Milton, George Hill, Furkan Korkmaz, and Dwight Howard. It appears possible all of those players will play meaningful playoff minutes. 

The second-string starters helped lift the Sixers to an early 11-point lead. The team made 7 of its first 8 three-point attempts. 

Once the Sixers’ substitutes began to check in, Orlando turned the tide. The Magic had some success with a zone defense in the second quarter and beat the Sixers off of the dribble frequently.

The wildly athletic Rayjon Tucker soared high in the second quarter to slam home a Milton lob. 

Paul Reed (17 points, 12 rebounds) had a nice third quarter that included a mid-range jumper and a tip-in off a Maxey miss. Milton (15 points, nine assists) was good after the break, too. He rifled a left-handed skip pass to Anthony Tolliver for a corner three late in the third.

Getting ready for the postseason

I get stressed out thinking about it.

By beating a shorthanded Brooklyn Celtics team Sunday, the New York Knicks earned the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed and a first-round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks. Unless the Sixers are upset in the first round, they’ll play the Knicks or Hawks in round two. 

The Eastern Conference’s play-in tournament is set and will begin next Tuesday. The number one seed Sixers will face the team that winds up with the eighth seed in the first round.

While the Sixers have made most of their own luck, things have broken nicely for them in the East. They should be the clear favorites in both the first and second rounds. A matchup with the sixth-seeded Miami Heat wouldn’t happen until the conference finals, and Miami has a difficult path to reach that stage. 

Wells Fargo Center will be at 50% of its capacity the next time the Sixers are in the building. The last round one, game one the Sixers hosted was a loss to the Brooklyn Nets in 2019 that featured quite a few boos. Regardless of the result, expect a lot of noise for a team that has its best on-paper chance at a deep playoff run since the 2000-01 season. 

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