Though the stakes were not nearly the same as for their Round 2, Game 7 loss to the Hawks, the Sixers on Monday won their first game since June.
The team easily beat the Mavericks in its summer league opener in Las Vegas by a 95-73 score.
Tyrese Maxey starred, putting up 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Next up for the Sixers: A matchup Thursday at 9 p.m. ET against Atlanta on ESPN2.
Here are three observations on their blowout victory Monday:
Second-year Sixers shine
Maxey spearheaded just about everything early on for the Sixers’ offense.
In the first quarter alone, Maxey attempted 10 field goals and three foul shots, scoring 14 points. The 20-year-old was not remotely hesitant about taking pull-ups threes, knocking down 3 of 6 long-range tries in the game.
“At the end of the day whenever you’re a small guard, if you can hit the three it’s going to open a lot of things up for you," Sixers assistant and summer league head coach Brian Adams said postgame via Zoom. “For him, the No. 1 priority is running the team and being the point guard out there — but also his ability to space the floor with the three, whether it’s on a spot-up or just aggressive, 1-on-1, or in pick-and-roll. That’s definitely an area we’re trying to get him, especially if people go under in the pick-and-roll. We want to make people pay and have people have to go over going forward.”
Both teams made many attempts to generate transition offense but the Sixers, led by Maxey, were far more fluid and composed in the half court. Maxey can't replicate playing with a dominant center like Joel Embiid in Las Vegas, but the experience as a lead ball handler could nevertheless be useful.
If he keeps playing starter’s minutes, the odds of him scoring a lot of points over the next week look quite good. Summer league doesn’t appear to be a necessary step in Maxey’s development, though.
“Maxey, he’s an elite scorer, certified bucket," Paul Reed said. “Playing with a guy like Maxey, you know you don’t have to do too much. He’s going to take care of a lot. He’s so elite, and he’s getting better at passing. It’s fun to play with him.”
It’s no revelation, but Isaiah Joe is a sweet shooter. Like Maxey, he began the game comfortable in the knowledge that he was one of the best players on the floor. The second-year guard nailed a nifty step-back jumper and was effective curling off of screens, too.
“It’s fun to just pass the ball and you know it’s going in," Maxey said of playing with Joe. “That’s an amazing feeling.”
Joe also took a charge late in the first quarter. The Sixers’ overall team defensive effort was strong even after they built a very large lead. Reed didn’t have a big scoring game (nine points) but recorded four blocks and three steals.
Springer finds his footing
Rookie Jaden Springer had a rough shooting performance in the first half, though all of his shots were reasonable attempts. Springer’s efficiency as an NBA three-point shooter is important in the long term, but firing when open is a decent first step.
He wasn’t discouraged by the missed jumpers, making an open catch-and-shoot corner three and two transition layups within the first four minutes of the second half. Springer finished the game with 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting, two assists, four turnovers and two blocks.
“I feel good," he said. “I started off a little rusty, a little jitters at first, but as the game went on, I got to it. I’d probably give myself a ‘C.’”
Springer was solid defensively. He’s strong, keeps his balance well when he slides his feet and forces turnovers without reckless risk-taking.
Filip Petrušev, the 50th pick in this year’s draft, started at center and posted five points, four rebounds and three blocks. The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported that Charles Bassey’s agent decided not to have the rookie big man play. Bassey is currently unsigned. Instead of Bassey, the Sixers used Braxton Key as a smaller center option.
What’s next for Tucker?
As usual, it was worth watching Rayjon Tucker whenever he had a head of steam in the open floor.
It’s difficult at the moment to judge Tucker’s chances of one day cracking an NBA rotation, whether that’s in Philadelphia or elsewhere. His athleticism, physicality and relentless attitude all help his case, and he’s proven to be a high-scoring, high-impact player at the G League level.
Perhaps head coach Doc Rivers will throw a few meaningful minutes Tucker's way here and there during the 23-year-old’s second season on a two-way contract with the Sixers. The unanswered question with Tucker is whether he can be helpful in a limited role.