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Tyrese Maxey answered the call in Game 5 win

The 22-year-old’s 30 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, were a huge boost for this Sixers team now looking to complete the upset.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Game 5’s 115-103 win in Boston was the best the Philadelphia 76ers have looked in the playoffs in a long time. They consistently controlled the game against an excellent Celtics team to put themselves one win away from their first conference finals appearance since 2001.

Crucially, the Sixers didn’t do it via an out-of-this-world performance by one of their two headlining stars, Joel Embiid or James Harden (although both were very good). Instead, they received excellent contributions from nearly everybody up and down the roster, displaying the team depth that has eluded them in past postseasons and even at times during this current playoff run.

At the top of that supporting cast, Tyrese Maxey had received plenty of ‘he needs to play better’ discussion amidst his struggles in this series, including by this very author. On Tuesday night, he responded with probably his best performance against Boston ever, exploding for 30 points while shooting 6-of-12 from behind the arc. The 12 attempts from downtown tied his third-highest total of the season, as Tyrese continues to tightrope walk the line between giving the Sixers the scoring punch the team needs, and deferring to his star teammates.

Doc Rivers was asked what powered Maxey’s big night, and had this to say (courtesy of Derek Bodner’s Daily Six Newsletter):

“Ball movement. Honestly, the ball went from side to side. He had three or four just point-blank threes because of their rotations. With him and Tobias, it’s a barometer for us. If Tobias and Maxey are involved that means the ball’s moving.”

The ball was definitely popping on Tuesday night. Maxey had a lightning-quick, give-and-go, dribble handoff with P.J. Tucker that resulted in one of his threes. This pass from Embiid to Tyrese ended up near the top of the game’s highlight reel.

You could see the confidence rising for Maxey as the game progressed, culminating with his 12 points in the fourth quarter. My favorite play of the game came with more than nine minutes left, after the Celtics had cut to lead to 11 and the corpse of a Boston crowd had finally started to rise and act like maybe they should be involved to some degree. Immediately, we saw a catch-and-shoot Maxey dagger three to silence the arena. Nope, not your night, Beantown.

Maxey wasn’t done, however. The Sixers were comfortable handing him the keys to offense and a couple minutes later, he showed off the in-between game with this circus scoop shot coming downhill out of the pick-and-roll.

If his earlier three was the dagger, this stepback with four minutes left was Maxey cutting off the head just to make sure no Zombie Celtics could come back to life and terrorize the camp.

Game 5 was on the short list of most satisfying Sixers wins in my lifetime, and I’m glad Maxey played a big part. He has often been the most joyous part of this Sixers team and as we saw in Boston, his contributions are needed for this team to reach its championship ceiling. Assistant coach Sam Cassell, who has been hyping up Tyrese since his rookie year, was the avatar for all of us during this post-game exchange with Maxey.

This club is getting awfully close to approaching Philadelphia immortality. Keep the confidence high and let those shots fly, Tyrese.

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