The Philadelphia 76ers‘ Game 2 win over the Washington Wizards was a near-perfect outing.
Ben Simmons went off (more on that here), Matisse Thybulle recorded a unicorn stat line the likes of which has never before been seen in a playoff game (more on that here), and all five of the team’s starters were able to exit the game without recording 30 minutes of action.
But unfortunately, the Sixers did not leave the Wells Fargo Center unscathed.
If Curry can’t go, it’ll be a tough blow but far from a death knell. The Sixers will surely kick Furkan Korkmaz up into the starting five like they have all season and tighten up their regular rotation from 11 to 10. But regardless of who starts at shooting guard in Game 3, one player who should see his playing time expand has to be Tyrese Maxey, as the rookie combo guard has been playing lights out in spot-up duty so far this postseason.
Tyrese Maxey has earned a spot in the Philadelphia 76ers’ rotation.
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In another world, Tyrese Maxey isn’t a member of the Philadelphia 76ers right now.
Heck, had the Thunder won one fewer game during the 2019-20 season, the Sixers wouldn’t have even had a first-round pick in last November’s draft, as the selection obtained from the Orlando Magic via OKC was top-20 protected, but now, none of that really matters.
Maxey is a member of the Sixers, and he’s heating up at the best possible time.
Since George Hill officially joined Doc Rivers‘ rotation on April 19th, Maxey has been playing with a newfound maturity the likes of which the young point hadn’t shown through his first 56 NBA games, boasting an improved shot selection, a better feel, and an average of 1.2 more assists per game.
Does that feel a tad counterintuitive? Sure. Normally, adding one point guard would diminish the role of another, but for the most part, that hasn’t been the case. Maxey and Hill have shared the court for 125 minutes in the regular season and for 13 more in their abbreviated playoff run, and the latter’s wisdom has undeniably rubbed off on a guard 15 years his junior.
After only playing seven minutes of action in his maiden playoff appearances versus Washington, making his lone shot from the field and an attempt from the charity stripe, Maxey became more of a featured player in the Sixers’ second bout versus the Wizards, logging 14 straight minutes from the end of the third to a minute and a half left in the fourth. Tasked almost exclusively with playing alongside the reserves save a few minutes of run with Ben Simmons, Maxey was one of only five players on Sixers who scored in double-digits and trailed only Matisse Thyulle in blocks with three.
Wait, two of the Sixers’ reserve guards accounted for eight blocks in 34 minutes of action? How is that even possible?
While Maxey’s playoff minutes undoubtedly have a ceiling, as he can’t space the field as well as Curry, Korkmaz, or Danny Green and will likely be kept out of lineups with Joel Embiid due to their clashing styles of play, if Steph’s brother can’t go in Game 3, or is on a pitch count due to his ankle injury, it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t been a positive asset every time he’s stepped on the court, more so than some of his fellow rookie-contract guards.
Could Maxey eventually usurp Shake Milton, who has struggled mightily this postseason, in Rivers’ rotation? Maybe, maybe not, but if Maxey continues to put in work during these final two contests versus Washington – basketball gods willing – it’ll certainly contribute to tipping that hand one way or the other.
For a 20-year-old rookie who was probably worrying about Spring Semester finals at Kentucky at this time last year, what more could you really ask for?
Look, no team ever wants to lose one of their starters for a playoff game. I don’t care what the series record is, how undermanned the opponent is, or what seed they finished out the regular season in; sometimes a tiny momentum shift can be enough to reshape a series for the worst – or the best, depending on your perspective. With that being said, if there was a game for the Philadelphia 76ers to be without Seth Curry – or at least have him in limited action – Game 3 versus the Washington Wizards has to be pretty high on that list, as it could give players like Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, and most importantly of all, Tyrese Maxey a chance to prove their mettle to Doc Rivers once and for all in time to further fortify the rotation heading into the Semifinals.