Sixers

With Maxey set to make return, Sixers-Hornets storylines to watch

Sixers

The Sixers have the Eastern Conference’s longest winning streak at seven games. The conference’s second-longest streak belongs to the Hornets, who have triumphed in three straight games and will play the Sixers on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. 

Here are the essentials for the game: 

  • When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:15 p.m. 
  • Where: Wells Fargo Center 
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app

And here are storylines to watch: 

Maxey returns after ‘extremely weird’ time out

When Tyrese Maxey tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of training camp last season, he said he lost his sense of taste and smell. His recent experience in health and safety protocols was different. 

“I never had a symptom the entire time,” Maxey said Wednesday after shootaround. “It was extremely weird. I didn’t cough one time, (didn’t) sneeze, no congestion, was never tired. I was basically at home acting like I was sick and perfectly healthy. But stay away from everybody, stay away from mom and dad. You don’t want anybody like that to catch it. I’m blessed to have no symptoms and I’m blessed to be back.”

Maxey has been living in a hotel following a Christmas Eve fire at his home in Voorhees, New Jersey. He entered COVID protocols before the Sixers’ win last Monday against the Rockets and missed four games, though he was able to work out and participate in scrimmages with low-minute players over the last couple of days after testing negative. 

Will Maxey require a ramp-up period? 

“I’m going to do whatever they ask me to do,” he said. “If they ask me to play 20 minutes, I’m going to go out there and play 20 minutes hard. If they ask me to play 45 minutes, I’m going to go out there and play 45 minutes hard. So whatever the coaches want, whatever they need me to do, I’m going to go out there and try to accomplish that.”

 

Stronger version of the Hornets 

Both wins were tight, but the Sixers swept a December mini-series in Charlotte. Joel Embiid totaled 75 points over the two games.

The Hornets will have more resources to use on Embiid this time around and be much closer to full strength overall. Charlotte was without LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee, Jalen McDaniels and Ish Smith because of health and safety protocols against the Sixers. All five players are now available, though Kelly Oubre Jr. and Vernon Carey Jr. are out.

Ball beat the Bucks on Monday with a clutch floater and provides consistent, unique entertainment. He’s built a strong All-Star case in his second season, averaging 19.4 points, 7.6 assists and 7.3 rebounds. 

Shake Milton (back contusion), Ben Simmons (personal reasons), Jaden Springer and Braxton Key (on G League assignment) are out for the Sixers. Seth Curry was listed as questionable with left ankle soreness and Tobias Harris was probable with right shoulder pain. 

How long can this last? 

With media savvy beyond his years, Maxey deftly answered a question Wednesday about the Sixers’ collective mindset with the Feb. 10 trade deadline nearing. 

“I’m not going to lie,” he said, “I don’t know about what’s going on outside of the locker room. … So I can’t put my two cents on it. All we’re talking about right now is we’ve won seven straight and we’re trying to continue that success, trying to make a push to All-Star break and trying to climb in the standings.”

Though the Sixers have benefited from playing an easier chunk of their schedule, four of the team’s seven wins during this streak have been by 19 points or more. The Sixers have played high-quality basketball overall, and the notion of continuing to rise in the Eastern Conference doesn’t sound ludicrous at the moment. The team currently sits fifth, a game back of the fourth-place Bucks and 4.5 behind the first-place Bulls.