If Tyrese Maxey keeps ascending at this pace, the Philadelphia 76ers likely will make a deep run in the NBA playoffs.
Maxey scored 38 points, one shy of his career high, and the fourth-seeded Sixers blitzed the fifth-seeded Toronto Raptors 131-111 in Game 1 of the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs on Saturday.
Game 2 will be played Monday night in Philadelphia.
Maxey shot 66.7 percent from the field, and he became one of just 11 players 21 years or younger in league history to score 35 points or more in a playoff game, according to Stathead.
Tobias Harris added 26 points, James Harden contributed 22 points and 14 assists and Joel Embiid had 19 points and 15 rebounds. But Maxey made the biggest impression.
“He was calm out there,” Harden said of Maxey. “He took his shots when they were open. He took his attacks when they were available and he just made the right play, which he has done since I’ve been here.”
Maxey received multiple standing ovations from the crowd. But looking ahead, he’s focused on one thing — winning.
“I appreciate it, but I think the only thing I’m gonna remember is us winning and that’s all that matters at this point,” Maxey said. “And now this is in my rearview mirror and it’s time to look ahead to Game 2 and get focused and get prepared.”
This series is far from over, and the Sixers realize that fact.
“Every game in the playoffs is gonna be going full battle,” Harris said. “And this series is gonna be that same way. They’re a team that is gonna make an adjustment and that’s what the playoffs are about.”
While the Raptors were soundly defeated, it’s still only one loss.
There’s plenty of time to respond.
“We’ve just got to be better,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “For us, I think in the first half they had zero (turnovers) and I told the team, I don’t remember a half in nine years that I’ve been here where we haven’t turned a team over at all. Just goes to not enough ball pressure, not enough active hands, probably not enough physicality. Things that you need to do.”
Toronto will enter Game 2 with some injury concerns.
Scottie Barnes hobbled to the locker room early in the fourth quarter after Embiid landed heavily on his left foot. X-Rays taken postgame were negative and Barnes’ status remains unclear for Monday.
Thad Young also left at halftime with a sprained left thumb, further depleting the Raptors’ depth.
For Toronto, Pascal Siakam led the way with 24 points, OG Anunoby added 20, Fred VanVleet had 18 and Barnes contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds before exiting.
They’ll need more to come up with a series-evening road victory.
“I wouldn’t say we lost ourselves. I think we just weren’t ourselves in a lot of areas,” VanVleet said. “I think a lot of what we do is predicated on our aggressiveness and our length and making plays on the ball, causing turnovers, blocking shots. And I think whether that was jitters from some of the newer guys or the whistle or whatever the case may be, we were just a little slow.”
–Field Level Media