76ers Guard Tyrese Maxey’s Heroic Performance in Game 5 Cements His Rise to Stardom

76ers Guard Tyrese Maxey’s Heroic Performance in Game 5 Cements His Rise to Stardom Apr 30, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) brings the ball up court against New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) during the first quarter of game 5 of the first round of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The obituaries for the 2023-24 Philadelphia 76ers were already being written. The team was down by six points with 29 seconds remaining. New York Knicks fans were going wild. The Knicks’ victory song, Go New York Go, was blaring around a packed Madison Square Garden. New York was on the edge of ending the series and advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

Then everything changed. Tyrese Maxey scored seven points in the final 25 seconds to force overtime. His scoring barrage began with a 4-point play that cut the deficit to just two points. He went around a Joel Embiid screen, drew Mitchell Robinson into the air with a pump fake and leaned into the contact while making an improbable shot from beyond the arc. Josh Hart split the free throws on the other end of the floor, giving the Sixers an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds. Maxey again stepped up, draining a 3-pointer from the logo to tie the game. The packed house at MSG, including celebrity Jon Stewart, were completely silenced. In the words of Sixers’ radio play-by-play man Tom McGinnis, Maxey was “the star in Gotham City.”

Maxey is typically all smiles while wielding a happy-go-lucky personality. He does not usually show much emotion out on the court. After sending the game into overtime, Maxey let all of his emotions loose in about 20 seconds of pure intensity.

Without Maxey’s heroic performance, the Sixers’ season would be over. Embiid had one of his worst offensive games of the season, scoring just 19 points while committing nine turnovers. The rest of the roster, besides some positive contributions from Tobias Harris, struggled to get anything going offensively.

Maxey poured in 46 points on 17-of-30 shooting, including going 7 of 12 from beyond the arc. He was the lone player showing any signs of life offensively for much of the game. However, he showed the maturity to criticize his own play immediately upon sitting down in front of reporters after the game.

“I absolutely hate losing,” Maxey said after Game 5. “I missed three free throws, crucial free throws, and then I turned the ball over late. People don’t see me upset a lot, but I was really upset, and I just wanted to go out there and make up for it for my teammates, man. I feel like I played pretty well the whole game and for us to lose a game like that, end a season like that, I would have been crushed.”

The 23-year old guard showed maturity beyond his years. Maxey shouted out teammate Buddy Hield, who lost his rotation spot after scoring two points through the first three games of the series, for talking him up on the bench after one of his three missed free throws on the night.

“Buddy Hield just kind of grabbed me and said, ‘Listen, dude, you know what you can do. Go out there and make up for it,'” Maxey said. “I really do appreciate Buddy for that, man. I know it will go unnoticed but it was big-time of him.”

Throughout this season, it became clear Maxey is making the leap to stardom. His play during the regular season, averaging 25.9 points and 6.2 assists per game, earned him his first All-Star berth and the Most Improved Player award. The 23-year old’s production has only improved this postseason. He is averaging 32.4 points per game while shooting 50.0% from the field (24.0 attempts per game) and 42.9% from 3-point range (9.8 attempts per contest). In addition to his regular season accolades, he now has a signature postseason moment.

For some on the team, they foretold Maxey’s rise to stardom. Harris reached back to the postseason of Maxey’s rookie campaign in 2020-21 to point out when he knew Maxey would become a star. With the Sixers in need of a win to keep their second round series against the Atlanta Hawks alive, Maxey came off the bench to score 16 points and force a Game 7. He had played in just 6.6 minutes per game heading into that contest, but Maxey had the poise to produce when called upon.

“You saw flashes of how good he could be and how he really embraces the moment,” Harris said on Tuesday. “And obviously with more opportunity and the basketball being in his hands more and more now, he’s totally taken it to another level. Tonight, that fourth quarter, that last minute, what he was able to do was spectacular for us. He carried us right then and there.

“Even in the overtime, we were just expecting him to make every play out there for us as a group. And he did a great job of also being out there and understanding how the defense was playing him, making the right reads. This is a big-time game from a big-time player.”

Amidst his rise to stardom, Maxey remained grounded after Game 5. He spoke about the work ethic his father instilled in him as a child and how it is impacting him today.

“My dad always said, proper preparation prevents poor performance,” Maxey said. “He’s been on me since I was a kid, about working and finding ways to get better every single day no matter what. Watching film, working on your body, going to the gym getting some shots up. So me, I just work my tail off every single day, no matter what the scenario is.”

Due to Maxey’s heroics in Game 5, the Sixers are just one home game away from forcing a critical Game 7 back in New York. If the Sixers are going to complete a comeback from being down 3-1 in this series, Maxey is going to be at the center of it. Game 6 tips off at 9 p.m. on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center.

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