HomeBasketball TodayTyrese Maxey dominates Celtics with unstoppable offense and lockdown defense

Tyrese Maxey dominates Celtics with unstoppable offense and lockdown defense

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Although the numbers don’t pop off the page, Tyrese Maxey was remarkable in the 76ers’ loss to the Celtics.

The Philadelphia 76ers did not beat the Boston Celtics in their final matchup of the 2023-24 regular season. In their latest loss amid Joel Embiid’s absence, the Sixers proceeded to come close to picking off a win before getting smacked around down the stretch. But Tyrese Maxey was sensational and his performance shouldn’t be lost to time just because his team took the L.

Maxey recorded a game-high 32 points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals on 12-24 shooting in 36 minutes. The Celtics got big-time performances from Jayson Tatum (29 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) and Jaylen Brown (31 points on 11-14 shooting) while Kristaps Porzingis dominated in the paint with 23 points and 12 rebounds and Derrick White wrecked the Sixers with three blocks and two steals.

Once again, Maxey came to the 76ers’ rescue, even if he couldn’t pull off the improbable win. What makes this Maxey performance so special is how he was not only amazing on offense but also on defense. This was perhaps his most complete game as a pro, especially considering his opponent’s strength. Let’s jump into the film.

Offense: downhill dominance 

Maxey was taken care of in the fourth quarter as the Celtics embarked on a huge run that put the game out of reach. But before then, he was absolutely torching whoever stood in his way.

Against numerous defenders, Maxey looked like he was on 2x speed. Just a single hang dribble froze his defender for long enough for him to zip by. Sometimes, like in one of the instances he dusted Jrue Holiday, his first dribble was a hang dribble. The brief pause allows him to lower his leg and get more power on his drive.

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Tatum can’t stay in front of Maxey despite being in a good defensive stance. The rim pressure draws Al Horford over to help, causing Sam Hauser to slide down and making De’Anthony Melton wide open in the corner. These are the types of passes that can unlock Philly’s offense more and that Maxey should be ready to make. Early in the game, he assisted Buddy Hield after drawing away his defender.

The Celtics had a really tough time containing Maxey’s speed, leading the Sixers to play Paul Reed less and open the floor with shooting threats at center. On this play, with the floor spaced out entirely, the help defenders are helpless when Maxey blows by Hauser and finishes with a reverse layup.

Opposing defenders who don’t want to get burned by Maxey have to play him much further off than they can allow. White backs up pretty far off of Maxey to make sure he keeps him in front of him. He succeeds — but it activates a trap: Maxey shooting with plenty of space. Later in the game, he punished Porzingis for being too far away in his drop coverage.

Maxey can get to the rim and shoot from deep no problem. But the middle level of scoring is where he needs to really improve. There were a few times against the Celtics where he got into an open mid-range shot rather than push the envelope and try to get to the rim. Those types of counters are especially important to learn without Embiid.

In years past, the Celtics have given Maxey trouble with their athleticism and length. Last year, he averaged 10.0 points per game on 35.4 percent shooting in his four games against Boston. This season, his stats against the C’s are much more in line with his stats from the rest of the season. That’s the type of growth that will keep a flicker of hope lit for the Sixers if they see the Celtics in a playoff setting.

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Defense: fighting until the end

Guards as small as Maxey are rarely game-changers on defense. There are times when he can be helpful on defense but he’s not typically seen as a two-way force. But he was absolutely that against the Celtics.

Boston spent a lot of the evening hunting Maxey as a size mismatch. He played with a steadfast refusal to get pushed around. Going mano a mano with Tatum in the middle of the floor, he stood firm right in front of the opponent who had six extra inches of height over him. Tatum settled for an awkward, forward-leaning jumper that missed.

Maxey was disruptive on the ball, too. Here, he guards Brown at the top of the key and makes the obvious call to force him left. When the screen comes to get Brown going to his right, Maxey beats him to the spot and forces a loose ball that he crafts into free throws. He was engaged tightly with everyone he guarded on the ball, refusing to cede an inch of space.

White hangs his hat on being a strong shot-blocker. He did so often in this game, making shots at the rim tough for players bigger than him. Maxey retaliates (and makes up for getting caught on a screen) by swatting White’s shot from behind, kickstarting a fast break that ends with him assisting Harris on a layup. Maxey also got White by sneaking up behind him to steal a pass.

When reflecting on Maxey’s season, the games where he scored 50 and 51 will be remembered most commonly — and for good reason. But this game absolutely deserves to be mentioned with them. Such a complete performance with a shorthanded roster against the NBA’s best team is really, really special.

Shoutout to the bench boys

The 76ers got some inspired performances out of Cam Payne, Mo Bamba and Ricky Council IV. The three bench players each played pretty well and either surpassed or came close to matching the output from the Celtics’ entire bench (15 points).

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Council contributed 16 points on 6-8 shooting. His drives to the hoop are 100 percent concentrated power of will each and every time. The undrafted rookie scored a layup over Porzingis, jumped off of two feet for grown-man takes and salvaged a fast break where he almost lost the ball by changing directions and levitating for an and-one layup.

Bamba’s inconsistency has left the 76ers in need of another backup center but he did his job against the Celtics. He notched a pair each of putbacks off of offensive rebounds and triples on his way to recording 10 points and six rebounds. His defense was very solid in the paint and did his best to hold up outside of it. On one play, he was caught up on an off-ball screen and communicated for Kelly Oubre Jr. to take his man. He then got back into the play to prevent an offensive board.

Payne’s hot shooting in the fourth quarter gave the Sixers a chance to pull ahead while Maxey rested. He scored 10 points in that period and 13 for the whole game. He jab-stepped his way into open looks for his two triples from the fourth quarter and dashed downhill with feathery shooting touch.

While the Sixers didn’t get any great production from their starters, they aren’t without their depth when the injury bug actually leaves them alone.

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About the Author

Sam DiGiovanni started at ClutchPoints as an associate editor in 2021 and became the site’s Philadelphia 76ers beat reporter ahead of the 2022-23 season. He graduated from Marist College in May of 2022 and has written for TheKnicksWall.com and CenterFieldMarist.com in the past.

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