Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey in spotlight with 38 wins in Game 1 against Raptors

PHILADELPHIA — In the days leading up to the start of the first-round series between the 76ers and Toronto Raptors, the focus was on James Harden’s effectiveness against Toronto’s long defense.

In Game 1 on Saturday night, however, it was another 76ers guard who stole the show.

Tyrese Maxey’s 38 points, including a 21-point explosion in the third quarter, helped Philadelphia earn a 131-111 victory in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,610 at the Wells Fargo Center. It was the final emphatic reminder of Maxey’s progress in his sophomore season.

“His speed is a factor,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “We know we have to keep using him in space. Some nights maybe he’ll drive through. Tonight he was the one driving, going to the basket and shooting.”

Maxey did a lot on Saturday night, going 14-for-21 from the field, including 5-for-8 from 3-point range. While Maxey’s speed was evident last year as a rookie, it was his improved shooting that opened his game. He went from a low-volume 30% 3-point shooter as a rookie to a 42% shooter on more than four 3-point attempts per game in Year 2.

On Saturday night, Maxey showed all the facets of his game, knocking down shots to the edge, tearing up Toronto’s defense to get to the edge and get to the foul line, where he went 6-for-7.

The Sixers typically play slower than their opponents, but Maxey helped their transition play Saturday as Philadelphia made a concerted effort to get out and run. There was no better example of that than when Harden hit a serial Maxey for a third-quarter layup, like a quarterback hitting a wide receiver on a tee road.

“He runs and you have to reward him,” Harden said. “He’s a great finisher. He makes good play. So I just try to keep him going.”

Maxey’s performance was just one of many superlatives for Philadelphia in the series opener. Harden still didn’t have the kind of shine the 76ers would like to see in the paint, going 2 for 10 on 2-point shots, but he still finished with 22 points. Much of that was down to his 3-point back, and he finished 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Harden also had five rebounds and 14 assists on a single turnover.

Joel Embiid, meanwhile, also struggled to hit shots, going 5 for 15, but he was a physical presence inside, finishing with 19 points and 15 rebounds, including four offensive rebounds. He also had four assists and no turnovers.

“I mean, it really starts with me,” Embiid said. “I’m not frustrated. I kind of invited the double and triple teams that they sent me all night. I’m just trying to play the right game, whatever will allow us to win. I said I’ve played against them for so long, especially the same coach, I kind of know how they think and how they want to play, especially defensively, so I think it’s all up to me, I keep on making the right plays over and over again and I thought tonight I was pretty good.”

Tobias Harris, meanwhile, had 26 points on 9-for-14 shooting to go along with six rebounds and six assists, and Philadelphia as a team reversed much of the perceived advantages for Toronto entering this series. Philadelphia had just four team turnovers to the Raptors’ seven and held a 10-7 advantage in offensive rebounds — two areas the Raptors were expected to control.

“It was a great game individually for some guys,” Harden said. “Then for the team, the things we talked about last week, bouncing the ball, not turning the ball over and giving them chances, I think we did a good job tonight.”

After taking the reins of training camp as the team’s starting point guard when Ben Simmons failed to show up after asking for a trade, then settling effortlessly next to Harden after the sending off from Simmons to Brooklyn, Maxey showed again on Saturday how essential he has become. to Philadelphia title hopefuls.

“Tyrese is awesome,” Harris said. “He has game and he works hard.

“I mean, he understands. He understands that you’re working and great things are happening for you tonight. You know, tonight was proof of that.”