The education of speedy Sixers starting point guard Tyrese Maxey continues

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  • Orlando Magic
    Orlando Magic
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  • Philadelphia 76ers
    Philadelphia 76ers
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  • Tyrese Maxey
    Tyrese Maxey
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  • Joel Embiid
    Joel Embiid
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  • Doc Rivers
    Doc Rivers
    American basketball coach and former player

PHILADELPHIA — During the nine games Joel Embiid missed after testing positive for COVID-19, Tyrese Maxey was the 76ers' leading scorer.

Maxey, a speedy second-year point guard, averaged 23.7 points on .421 shooting from 3-point range with Embiid sidelined, as well as accumulating 39 assists to 6 turnovers for a terrific ratio of 6.5.

When Embiid and Tobias Harris, who had missed the previous two contests with a sore hip, returned Saturday, Maxey had the difficult task of trying to balance getting his veteran teammates involved with looking for his own opportunities.

Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey takes a jump shot during Saturday night's double-overtime loss to the Timberwolves.
Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey takes a jump shot during Saturday night's double-overtime loss to the Timberwolves.

Maxey was a bit too deferential and worried about his teammates more than coach Doc Rivers would have liked in a 121-120 double-overtime loss to the Timberwolves.

Maxey scored 15 points, which was his lowest total in 10 games, on 5-for-15 shooting in the defeat, though he also had nine assists. While that's admirable from an unselfish, sharing-the-ball standpoint, Maxey can be a difference-maker as a natural scorer.

"It's tough," said Rivers prior to Monday's harder-than-it-should-have-been 101-96 victory over the lowly Magic. "He's young (and) playing with a bunch of (experienced) guys. Every time he shoots, he's thinking, 'I should've got that to Seth (Curry). I should've got that to Tobias (or) to Joel.' He's just got to keep picking his spots."

As perhaps the 11-10 Sixers' most effective player at beating his man off the dribble, Maxey is capable of picking up easy baskets with floaters when he attacks the rim, which takes pressure off the other four guys in the half-court offense. While his number of shots should decrease with Embiid and Harris playing again, Maxey must continue with his aggressive mindset.

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Then again, it's different playing with starters, which he has done all season in place of the embattled Ben Simmons, than coming off the bench as he usually did as a rookie. He'll make his 22nd start of the season Wednesday vs. the Celtics in Boston.

The education of the 21-year-old Maxey continues.

"I'm just trying to find a way to get my teammates involved, get downhill and create scoring for our team," said Maxey after Saturday's loss. "When I get in the paint and the defense collapses, our shooters, our scorers, are open."

Rivers let Maxey know the time Saturday in which he was ahead of the Philadelphia pack on one possession but waited for his teammates to get down the floor isn't what the Sixers want him to do. The coach also pointed out that Maxey taking his man was the first option on the play in which he turned the ball over trying to pass back to Embiid with 10 seconds left in the second OT, which Embiid said was his fault. It marked Maxey's fourth turnover of the evening, matching a season high.

"If you're a good defender, you pretty much know when a guy's trying to score and when a guy's trying to run a play," Rivers said. "As a point guard, you've got to sell it even if it's the other one."

Rivers, himself a 13-year point guard in the NBA, regularly gives Maxey in-game pointers when he sees something that needs to be addressed.

Rivers is confident Maxey will find the right balance between his two primary offensive responsibilities. Embiid is, too, but they also realize it's going to take more than his 21 starts this season to happen.

"Joel was on me (Saturday) about pushing the ball, pushing the pace, getting the ball up the court, finding guys who are scoring at the rim," Maxey said. "It's a learning experience."

Maxey had five points and five assists in his first 10 minutes against Orlando on Monday, but he was fairly quiet the rest of the evening on the way to a 9-point, 9-assist, 8-rebound outing with no turnovers in 31 minutes. He went 2 of 12 from the field, missing his last eight shots. He did convert all four free throw attempts in the final 40 seconds.

Rivers wasn't too thrilled with Maxey's showing vs. Orlando, saying, "I didn't think he had great energy, either. Rarely did you see him in the paint tonight. ... I don't think anyone played well."

Call it another step in Tyrese Maxey's transition from backup to NBA starter at point guard.

Tom Moore: tmoore@couriertimes; @TomMoorePhilly

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: The education of speedy Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey continues