Instant Observations: 76ers Fall to Celtics Despite Another Strong Maxey Performance

Instant Observations: 76ers Fall to Celtics Despite Another Strong Maxey Performance Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers (33-25) kept things close in the first half before the Boston Celtics (46-12) eventually pulled away. Boston extended their winning streak to nine games with a 117-99 win over the Sixers on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 29 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Jaylen Brown finished with 31 points on 11-of-14 shooting to go with six rebounds.

Tyrese Maxey finished with 32 points, three rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block for the Sixers. Ricky Council IV added in 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting off the bench.

Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus procedure), Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise) and KJ Martin (right ankle impingement) were all out of the lineup for the Sixers. De’Anthony Melton, who recently returned from a lengthy absence due to a lumbar spine stress response, left the contest early with back spasms.

The Sixers’ next matchup is at home against the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night. Here are some instant observations from the loss to the Celtics:

– Maxey typically makes most of his impact on the offensive end of the floor. However, against the Celtics he managed to have one of his more complete games of the season. The Celtics consistently attempted to target him defensively, but Maxey withstood the pressure. He made multiple strong defensive plays, including a possession where he fought through a Luke Kornet screen and blocked Derrick White’s layup attempt from behind.

In addition to the play above, Maxey drew a charge on a Brown post-up attempt. On another play in the final seconds of the first half, Maxey nearly stole the ball away from Brown, with the play resulting in another offensive foul on Brown. Maxey’s improvement defensively does not get talked about enough. He went from being one of the worst perimeter defenders in the league to someone who is largely capable of standing on their own in most matchups.

While Maxey had a strong night defensively, he also continued to carry the Sixers’ offense in Embiid’s absence. He was in rhythm right from the opening tip, scoring 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the first quarter. He did a great job attacking at all three levels, but most of his damage came from inside the arc. The 23-year old was unstoppable against Boston, and it is a shame he did not receive enough support from the rest of the roster to get the win.

The Celtics used to be a major stumbling block for Maxey, although he appears to have overcome that obstacle. He has excelled against the Celtics this season, which is a big positive step in his development. If the Sixers match up against Boston in the postseason, Maxey overcoming his prior struggles against Boston will be huge.

– Council continues to impress in limited opportunity. He quickly made a positive impact for the Sixers, scoring a pair of buckets within a few minutes of checking into the game. His second made basket was a dunk that came after he flew up to grab the offensive rebound.

Council ended up being one of the Sixers’ top performers in the loss to the Celtics. He provided a ton of energy as well as a strong ability to finish from around the rim. Council’s play can at times seem chaotic, but he generally manages to make a positive impact whenever he is on the floor. He is still playing on a two-way contract, although he is definitely deserving of a standard contract.

The Sixers’ bench as a whole had a good night against the Celtics, totaling 45 points. Cam Payne finished with 13 points, including shooting 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. Mo Bamba had one of his better games of the season, totaling 10 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes. He had some success in the pick-and-pop with Maxey, drilling a pair of 3-pointers out of that action.

– With Embiid out of the lineup, the Sixers have started utilizing more small-ball lineups in recent games. The results have not always been positive, but they had some success with it against Boston. Nic Batum, typically in the starting lineup, came off the bench and played a large share of his minutes as a small-ball center. The Sixers ran a lineup with Kyle Lowry, Maxey, Melton, Council and Batum. Despite giving up a couple layups against Boston’s bigs, that lineup was able fair well in the first quarter. They outscored Boston 12-8 over a 3:28 stretch late in the first quarter. If the Sixers are going to survive being without Embiid, they will need to have more consistent success using small-ball lineups.

– This is like beating a dead horse, but Tobias Harris needs to see his minutes significantly diminished. His play in the first two minutes of the second half encapsulated his recent struggles. He missed a layup and pair of wide open 3-pointers, resulting in a Boston run that increased their lead from two points to 11. Harris finished the game with 13 points while shooting a meager 5 of 19 from the field. Head coach Nick Nurse needs to strong contemplate taking Harris out of the starting lineup. Harris has been unplayable in recent weeks, and he is showing no signs of breaking out of his slump.

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