Breaking down seven standout plays from Maxey’s 51-point gem

Breaking down seven standout plays from Maxey’s 51-point gem originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Tyrese Maxey’s game tends to speak quite well for itself.

Smile on his face wherever he goes, Maxey whizzes around the court — off ball screens and down screens, past defenders, ahead of the pack — and finds ways to score.

The Sixers’ 23-year-old first-time All-Star did all that to the tune of a career-high 51 points Thursday in a tight, Joel Embiid-less win over the Jazz. While sitting back and watching told its own rich story, the seven plays below stood out from Maxey’s spectacular night.

Starting near the end and very far from the rim sounds right. The Jazz were determined to deny him the ball throughout the fourth quarter and the Sixers faced their largest deficit of the game at 120-117. Maxey used a Mo Bamba screen, dribbled to his left and decided to shoot from about nine feet behind the three-point line. He swished the jumper.

Along with Maxey’s knack for fearless fourth-quarter shotmaking, the moment showed off his deep range. As of Friday morning, Maxey ranks fourth in the NBA with 7.0 attempts per game from 25 to 29 feet out, and he’s made 35.6 percent of those shots. Volume-wise, he trails only Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic and Donovan Mitchell. The players directly behind Maxey are Damian Lillard, Jayson Tatum and Klay Thompson.

Maxey’s long-distance ability is always on defenders’ minds. It allows him to make especially effective pump fakes, burst downhill, and display his diligently honed package of contortionist’s layups.

In the pick-and-roll, Maxey’s talent and craft both shined Thursday. He exploded by Walker Kessler’s drop coverage in the third quarter, picking the perfect time to step on the gas and drive in for a hoop.

Utah guarded a middle pick-and-roll with Maxey and Paul Reed decently on the Sixers’ last possession of the second quarter. It didn’t matter, though.

Maxey was fine going to his left, getting back to his right hand against a backpedaling John Collins, and rising for a pull-up jumper just before Collin Sexton’s rearview contest.

Maxey drilled the mid-range game and heard all about its value during his many summer hours with former Sixers assistant coach Sam Cassell, who joined the Celtics’ staff this offseason.

“I can get all the way to the rim and shoot layups, but being able to have a mid-range game is going to be important,” Maxey said in November after dropping 50 points vs. the Pacers. “Come playoff time and (against) great defensive teams, they try to take away your layups and they try to take away your threes.

“So being able to score in the mid-range — whether it’s a pull-up jump shot, whether it’s a floater, whether it’s giving the ball to probably the best mid-range shooter in the NBA in Joel — those things are good for us. … I’m just trying to be aggressive, whether that’s scoring, passing, getting my teammates involved. As long as it contributes to winning, then I’m happy.”

Of course, Maxey is great at reaching the paint and flummoxing shot-blocking big men once he’s there.

Handling the ball out of a double drag action, Maxey accepted the invitation to drive left, outfoxed rookie point guard Keyonte George with a slick in-and-out move, and twisted around Kessler.

Maxey’s abrupt deceleration is yet another tremendous tool.

He absorbed James Harden’s tricks during their time together, including the 10-time All-Star’s signature step-back jumper. Maxey clearly has natural gear-shifting gifts, too.

“One thing that he really (instilled) in me is confidence,” Maxey said following the Sixers’ trade to send Harden to the Clippers. “And I’ve always been a confident person, but he made me be more confident than I already was. All I can do is appreciate him for that. He took me under his wing, taught me a lot of things as far as being a professional in this league and how things go, so I appreciate him and I love him.”

At this point, Maxey is obviously a star in his own right.

No defense wants to see him on the fast break, where he’s capable of terrific, high-hang time finishes with either hand.

“Every time we played him when I was coaching against him, it was a handful,” Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said of Maxey back on Oct. 31. “He’s got an incredible combination of the speed to the basket, the deep shooting range, and the ability to play through hits as well.

“It’s just really hard, when you’ve got all that going for you, not to score some points.”

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