Tyrese Maxey survives a scare and lifts the Sixers past the Mavericks in a homecoming

Keith Pompey, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Basketball

DALLAS — Tyrese Maxey had a great homecoming.

After practice Saturday at Buddy Hield’s Big D residence, Maxey took an Uber to his parents’ home. The next day, the native of Garland, Texas, led the Sixers to a 120-116 victory over the Dallas Mavericks with family members and friends in the stands at American Airlines Center.

Sunday’s victory was the second straight for the Sixers (35-25) since Kyle Lowry and Mo Bamba were inserted into the starting lineup.

The grouping of Hield, Tobias Harris, Bamba, Maxey, and Lowry has played with a lot of cohesiveness and great communication. Lowry, a six-time All-Star, has also been the unquestioned leader. Harris had 28 points in his second straight quality game. But make no mistake, this moment was all about Maxey.

The Sixers’ All-Star guard finished with 24 points, three assists, and two steals. Maxey set the tempo with 17 first-quarter points on 7-for-10 shooting before Harris and Kelly Oubre Jr. (21 points) took over.

Maxey’s play in the first quarter might have been the most vital part of the game for the Sixers. Dallas scored the game’s first 11 points. But after Maxey took over, the Sixers took a 32-22 lead into the second quarter.

Exciting ending

The Mavs (34-27) did pull within five points (115-110) after Luka Dončić’s three-point jumper with 34. 3 seconds remaining. The Sixers called a timeout with 26.7 seconds left. Maxey was fouled by Josh Green after receiving the inbounds pass and hit a pair of foul shots to put the Sixers up seven 1.6 seconds later. That led the Mavs calling a timeout.

After Kyrie Irving drained a three-pointer, Nico Batum was fouled with 10.8 seconds remaining. The Sixers forward hit a pair of foul shots before Irving drained another three to make it a 119-116 game. Oubre, however, responded a foul shot with 5.1 seconds left as the Sixers escaped with a four-point win.

Maxey, in his fourth season, did have a scare, though.

While driving the lane, Maxey fell to the floor and was inadvertently struck in the back of the head with four minutes left in the third quarter. He rolled around for a few minutes in pain before getting up and walking to the Sixers bench. Moments later, Maxey, his father, and the medical staff from both teams went to a room where he was evaluated. After being assessed by the Mavs doctors, Maxey was cleared to play and resumed action at the start of the fourth quarter.

Thriving through adjustments

Maxey is making a lot of adjustments, from having the luxury of playing off Joel Embiid to having the scoring load on his shoulders.

“I think it’s been a tremendous experience for him,” Sixers coach Nick Nurse said. ‘I think we’re learning a lot and he’s learning a lot. I think there’s a lot of room for growth here.”

But it has been an interesting situation for Maxey and the Sixers. He has never been in the situation where he had to provide the scoring load at the beginning of the season. Maxey’s focus was on running the team and deciding when to shoot and when to get others involved. At the same time, the Sixers were asking him to get better defensively.


“And then Joel goes out [after knee surgery] and now he has a whole other scenario,” Nurse said. “He’s clearly our best offensive player, like, clearly, and we need him to shoot a lot. And he’s still not quite thinking, ‘I’m coming down, I’m going to shoot it like five times in a row if I make one.’ I’m still pushing the aggressive part of it first and foremost, because it’s really not his total nature yet.”

That being said, Maxey still has to see the floor and spread the ball around a little bit. But the addition of Lowry has taken some of the facilitating duties off him. The North Philly native, who signed with the Sixers on Feb. 13, made his second consecutive start on Sunday.

Maxey attempted just 15 shots against the Mavs after attempting 33 against the Charlotte Hornets on Friday.

“Now we are talking,” Nurse said before the game. “We’re getting there. We’re getting to the point where I can say stop looking to shoot so much, you know?”

With Maxey leading the way, the Sixers outscored Dallas, 32-11, in the first quarter after Nurse called a timeout 2 minutes, 13 seconds into the game. The Mavs were shooting 4-for-4 before the timeout, and made just 3 of 16 shots in the quarter afterward.

Maxey began the second quarter on the bench. But with Harris scoring 12 points in the quarter, Maxey was more of a facilitator once he checked in with 7 minutes, 18 seconds remaining. He didn’t attempt his first shot of the quarter until the 4:41 mark. He scored two points in the quarter on 1-for-3 shooting.

Westtown reunion

This game pitted two former Westtown School centers against each other in the starting lineup.

Bamba, a 2017 Westtown graduate, got his second consecutive start for the Sixers. Meanwhile, standout rookie Dereck Lively, a 2022 graduate, started for the Mavs.

Both were McDonald’s All Americans in high school and among three former Westtown School standouts in the NBA. Cam Reddish, a 2018 Westtown grad, plays for the Los Angeles Lakers.

On Sunday, Bamba had eight points and five rebounds while splitting time at center with Paul Reed (13 points, seven rebounds). Meanwhile, Lively had four points and three rebounds. Dončić scored 38 points for the Mavs.

Reserve Sixers point guard Cam Payne did not play because of an illness.

Up next

The Sixers will head to New York on Monday. They’re scheduled to have an afternoon practice in the Big Apple. Then they’ll conclude their two-game road trip against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday at the Barclays Center.

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