Buddy Hield and Tyrese Maxey worked very well in their first game together.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tyrese Maxey and Buddy Hield spent their first game as backcourt mates showing how easy they can make each other’s lives on the court. They combined for 51 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers over the Washington Wizards.
Maxey, who was on the injury report for this game due to an illness, was far from his best self. But he came alive in the fourth quarter to score 15 points and extinguish the Wizards’ comeback efforts. Hield’s 10-point showing in the third quarter helped the 76ers build a strong lead. Both of them enjoyed their first game as teammates.
“It’s great. It was great,” Maxey said. “I mean, we know what he brings to the team — that shooting, that gravity. Honestly, can’t leave a guy like that. If you do, he’s gonna make you pay.”
Hield called Tyrese Maxey an “elite talent” with sensational downhill speed. After spending years playing alongside Tyrese Haliburton, the veteran guard is excited to play with the other young star point guard who shares his name. He did point out, though, that the way they play is different.
“It was good,” Hield said. “I played with the other Tyrese before but they both can shoot the ball at a high rate. One thing with this Tyrese, he’s able to get downhill faster. You can see his first step is elite.”
Since the 76ers are still in the process of teaching Hield their playbook, they could only stick to a few basic tenets of their offense. One of them, the pitch action, made perfect sense for a guy like Hield. When Maxey flips the ball back to Hield at the top of the key while serving as a temporary barrier between him and his defender, it gives Hield some more daylight to fire away. For a shooter like him, any additional space is an abundance.
This action is similar to one that Hield has lots of familiarity with: ghost screens. With Haliburton, Hield would often pretend to set a screen and relocate back out to the perimeter immediately. The 76ers did some of that, which gave Maxey more space to charge ahead.
“[Hield] was like, ‘Man, it’s crazy because you can get downhill on those ghost screens. They try not to leave me, try not to get off your body,” Maxey said, saying that the sky is the limit for what they can do and that Hield’s basketball intellect and energy have been great.
Hield’s shooting gravity opens up space to drive more than most players. When the 76ers looked to space the floor as much as possible for Maxey by deploying Tobias Harris at center, it worked wonders. On this play, Jordan Poole is watching Maxey beat Deni Avdija off the dribble the whole way. But he knows that if he commits too much, that ball is getting swung right to an open Hield.
Hield’s work as a shooter needs no explanation. He shot 4-9 from deep in the win over the Wizards. But what makes him extra dangerous is that he knows how to use his shooting gravity against defenders and make plays for teammates. He explained that Dave Joerger and Luke Walton, two of his head coaches during his days with the Sacramento Kings, helped teach him how to make plays when defenders over-pursue. Walton certainly saw that firsthand with Stephen Curry, a player Hield says he has learned from by watching him.
“I think that he understands the game. He really understands it,” Nick Nurse said of Hield. “So, he’s gonna make a lot of right plays. You hardly ever see him make a silly play.”
Maxey and Hield should work especially well together when Joel Embiid comes back. Defenses will have to send multiple guys at him, making his two-man actions with either guy super hard to stop. And adding another defender into that set could result in one of the other guards becoming open. A three-headed monster like that should be able to make some serious noise.
The Maxey-Hield tandem is meant to be an ancillary feature of the 76ers’ offense at full strength. But it can take center stage for the time being, especially as they get more familiar with each other. “It’s just hard to guard when there’s speed on the ball and shooting off the ball,” Nurse said.