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Tyrese Maxey has to use his superpowers to overcome struggles vs. Celtics

Tyrese Maxey didn’t play well against Boston this season, but there will be plenty of chances for him to find success against the Celtics.

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets - Game Four Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Tyrese Maxey is still just 22 years old. It’s an easy thing to forget when he’s out there carrying the Sixers’ offense during playoff games.

The latest addition to New Balance’s roster of NBA players, Maxey wore a pair of yellow sneakers at practice Wednesday that stood out. He was asked about the origin of the colorway and explained that they were inspired by the Infinity Stones from Marvel.

A moment of levity occurred when Maxey seemingly thought all the reporters on hand were too old to know the reference. Perhaps Maxey was forgetting that those movies are in fact based on comic books many read before the cinematic universe existed — a fact Sixers play-by-play announcer Kate Scott was quick to remind him of when his media session wrapped up.

While Maxey looked like Quicksilver to almost every team in the NBA, the Boston Celtics were able to slow down the explosive guard. He’ll have to fully unleash his superpowers for the Sixers to move past their hated rivals from Beantown.

In four games against the Celtics this season, Maxey averaged just 10 points. His shooting splits were poor (35.4/21.4/75) and his 40.2 true shooting percentage was his worst against any opponent this season. This might give an indication as to why the Sixers dropped three of four to Boston.

So, has Joe Mazzulla cracked a code schematically the other 28 teams have yet to figure out? Is he that bothered by the perimeter defenders of the Celtics?

While Boston being a damn good defensive team is a big part of it, there are other factors. For instance, one of the games was opening night, which might as well have been a decade ago. Two of the games were during the stretch where Maxey wasn’t starting after coming back from a broken bone in his foot. Maxey admitted he was also going through some mental health struggles at the time. Early in the final contest, Maxey took a hard fall and injured his neck and back — an injury that basically ended his regular season.

That’s not to make excuses for Maxey. We all know that’s the last thing he’d want anyone to do. It’s just to say that over the course of a best-of-seven series, Maxey will likely have his moments despite his regular-season struggles.

“I’ve watched a lot of film on it,” Maxey said after practice Wednesday. “In the middle of the season, that was kind of during my mental stuff. And then the last game, I think I hurt my back messing with [P.J. Tucker] getting a rebound. But the ultimate goal … it’s not about me. It’s about winning. What can we do to stop ... Boston as many times as we can to, at the end of the game when there’s zeroes across the board, have more points than they do?”

One of Maxey’s most dangerous weapons is his three-point shooting. His one poor shooting season at Kentucky likely allowed him to fall to the Sixers in the draft. Shooting 30.7 percent in his rookie year likely didn’t have opponents nervous.

“You’re trying to say I couldn’t shoot?” Maxey joked when someone brought up those numbers.

It’s quite funny to think about now since Maxey legitimately has become one of the best shooters in the sport. Maxey hit 43.4 percent on 6.2 attempts from three a game.

And he’s no one-trick pony. Maxey is in the 94 percentile among guards when it comes to triples, per Cleaning the Glass. He’s dangerous on catch-and-shoot opportunities (45.5 percent) and pull-ups (38.7). He’s developed a killer step-back which he used to sink the Nets in Game 3.

Maxey went 3 of 14 from deep against the Celtics this season. He went 157 of 355 (44.2 percent) against the rest of the league. He’s due for positive regression against Boston.

When you couple the lethal shooting with superhero-like speed, Maxey is a tough guard.

“Honestly, I think what it’s done for me is I can draw my defender out to a longer span,” Maxey said. “The way I shoot the ball off the catch and off the dribble, guys have to respect that. So now I can kind of get to my driving lanes, get to the rim, get to my floater, or get to the paint to collapse the defense and kick it out.

“That was one of my biggest things that I wanted people to know — or that I wanted myself to know — that I can the shoot the ball.”

It’s interesting that Maxey mentions his floater. It’s been a weapon for him ever since his days at Kentucky and has continued to be so through his young NBA career.

If you watched the Celtics take on the Hawks, you saw Trae Young have success with his floater. It could be an area for Maxey and the Sixers to exploit. (If James Harden could get his floater going they’d really be in business.)

The bigger concern might be making sure Maxey doesn’t defer to Joel Embiid and Harden as often as he does. It’s a difficult needle to thread for the third-year guard playing next to a former MVP and likely MVP, both of whom have absurdly high usage rates.

His coaches and teammates are constantly reminding Maxey to go get his.

“Tyrese, I’m always trying to get him activated,” P.J. Tucker told reporters after Game 3 in Brooklyn. “Sometimes he gets lost in the shuffle, just with James and Jo, but he doesn’t need a lot to get going. Tyrese gets a layup, gets fouled, gets a couple of free throws, and then he can just run ‘em off and take over the game. Having that ability … he’s so young, he doesn’t even know. (Chuckles.) He missed a few, whatever, but he just gets it going when he makes one shot. He’s that good, so I’m always looking to try to get him going.”

Maxey was asked which Marvel movie he’d like to make an appearance in. Without hesitation he said Spider-Man. He didn’t want the leading role — he said he’d settle for being one of Spider-Man’s friends.

But the Sixers need him to be more than Harry or Ned. They’ll need his full complement of superpowers to beat Thanos ... err the Green Goblin ... err the Celtics.

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