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3 observations after Maxey scores career-high 52 in double-overtime victory

3 observations after Maxey scores career-high 52 in double-overtime victory originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Sixers' first win of the season after regulation was as thrilling as they come.

Tyrese Maxey scored a career-high 52 points Sunday night and the Sixers earned a 133-126 victory in double overtime over the Spurs in their final road game of the year.

Kelly Oubre Jr. added 26 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Victor Wembanyama led the Spurs with 33 points, 18 rebounds, seven blocks and six assists.

The Sixers didn’t have Joel Embiid (left knee injury recovery), Kyle Lowry (rest), Tobias Harris (left knee contusion), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine bone stress) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise).

The Pacers held on Sunday to beat the Heat. Following the Sixers' fifth consecutive win, the sixth through eighth range in the Eastern Conference is as follows:

  • 6. Pacers: 45-34

  • 7. Heat: 43-35

  • 8. Sixers: 43-35

The Sixers will begin a season-ending three-game homestand Tuesday night vs. the Pistons. Here are observations on their grueling, Maxey-starring win in San Antonio:

An enormous task vs. Wembanyama 

The Sixers had opened their Jan. 22 win vs. the Spurs with Nicolas Batum guarding Wembanyama. This time around, Paul Reed initially drew that daunting matchup.

Reed challenged Wembanyama a few times in the early going, but he had no space to score inside against the extraordinary 20-year-old. Defensively, Reed had some decent possessions, playing solid drop coverage while also staying tight to the 7-foot-4 Frenchman’s body on the perimeter. Maxey swiped the No. 1 pick’s handoff and jetted away for a layup. The Sixers scored the evening’s first nine points off turnovers.

Reed picked up his second foul at the 6:47 mark of the first quarter, which led to Mo Bamba’s entry. Seconds after Bamba stepped on the floor, Wembanyama slammed in a seemingly effortless lefty dunk over him. Batum was next up on Wembanyama when he checked back in during the second quarter.

With no Embiid for Wembanyama to worry about, the Sixers’ task was quite tall throughout the night. To Reed’s credit, he was especially undeterred in situations where other players likely would’ve been deflated by Wembanyama’s talents.

Reed charged into Wembanyama for his fourth foul, conceded a three-pointer, and got his mid-range jumper blocked early in the third quarter. He still kept on playing his game, snagging offensive rebounds, competing hard and finishing with 11 points, 10 boards and five assists before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

Allowing another massive run 

Oubre was excellent in the first quarter, recording 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting. He snuck free for a slam after making a savvy backdoor cut and did just about everything well.

Again, Oubre showed progress with the non-scoring aspects of his game. Late in the first quarter, he selflessly declined a contested chance in the paint, instead setting up a KJ Martin hoop.

Maxey carried the Sixers early in the second period and the team’s advantage grew as high as 14 points. However, the Spurs made a giant push back. Wembanyama jammed in a fast-break dunk, Julian Champagnie sunk a three, and San Antonio grabbed the lead during a 20-2 run.

The Spurs and their young star big man made several fantastic individual plays, but the Sixers were rushed and sloppy offensively while leaking too many easy points on the other end.

Embiid and Maxey are capable of halting spurts, but the Sixers will need to be better at preventing opponents’ runs from spiraling in the high-stakes games to come. They had similar problems in the second quarter of their win Thursday over Miami. Zooming out, the presence of ultra-experienced veterans like Lowry and Batum and the team’s consistent edge in the turnover battle are reasons for optimism.

Maxey heroic, Council as game as it gets

Maxey was determined to go downhill in the second half, driving aggressively and finding windows to score in the paint despite Wembanyama’s presence.

The three-point shot was the one element of his game not fully firing. Maxey had a down game from long range, going 2 for 10.

Through three quarters, Sixers head coach Nick Nurse used Buddy Hield, Bamba, Martin and Jeff Dowtin Jr. off the bench. Ricky Council IV began the fourth period in place of Hield, who had 10 points on 3-for-7 shooting and three assists.

Wembanyama drained three long-distance shots in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, but the Sixers didn't struggle to match him. Oubre had a strong start to the fourth. Council banked in a crafty layup over Wembanyama, hit a leaner, and made his first three field goals.

The rookie was also good defensively, guarding Keldon Johnson well before Johnson appeared to roll his left ankle and exited the game. Nurse stuck with Council for the entire fourth quarter and both overtimes. Every one of Council's 22 minutes was richly deserved.

Wembanyama was special late in the fourth on defense, blocking driving layups tries by Oubre and Maxey, but the Sixers' All-Star guard was persistent and brilliant in the final minute of regulation. He nailed a need-to-have-it three and calmly assisted a go-ahead Batum jumper with just under 10 seconds to go.

Maxey provided another clutch play in the dying seconds of regulation, slipping free off a sideline out-of-bounds play and scoring a game-tying layup.

As expected, the Sixers' offense revolved around Maxey after regulation. Council's contributions were also vital (and awfully impressive). He drove and dropped off a pass that set Martin up for a slam in the first overtime. Batum played stellar defense to force an air-balled Wembanyama jumper on the Spurs' final play of the first OT.

Maxey reached his new career high with two free throws early in the second overtime. He was also at his career high in minutes by that point; the 23-year-old ended the night with a whopping 54 minutes.

Council was clearly a bit fresher than Maxey in the second overtime. He delivered a reverse and-one layup, two big-time free throws, and an incredible wraparound lefty assist to Batum.

Maxey deserves heaps of praise for his performance, but the Sixers wouldn't have won Sunday unless Council was tremendous.