Sixers' Tyrese Maxey, De'Anthony Melton do a mini-role reversal in Game 1 win over Celtics
Maxey and Melton do a mini-role reversal to help Sixers top Celtics originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
BOSTON — There’s many reasons the Sixers hold a 1-0 lead over the Celtics in their second-round playoff series.
James Harden’s 45-point performance Monday night without Joel Embiid (right knee sprain) is the most obvious one. But just like in their Round 1, Game 1 victory over the Nets, the Sixers won decisively in a simple area.
“Going into the game, one of the keys for us was having more shots than them,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers told reporters postgame. “We thought that was huge. We really felt it was the only way we could beat ‘em; we have to have more shots than them to win. And we did that.”
The Sixers forced twice as many turnovers as Boston, finishing with a 16-8 edge in that category. They had a 20-13 advantage in points off turnovers, too. Crucially, the Sixers were exceptionally clean on offense to bookend their Game 1 victory at TD Garden. They committed zero turnovers over the first 15:02 and the final 8:23.
Tyrese Maxey had no turnovers in his 26-point night. While that wasn’t anomalous for Maxey, he swapped roles at times Monday with De’Anthony Melton.
The Sixers’ sixth man moved savvily off the ball, had a quick trigger from long range, and provided essential responses when the team seemed on the verge of falling into a deep deficit.
— 6ersFilmStudy (@6ersFilm) May 2, 2023
“Mr. Do Something” made his first five three-pointers, setting a new playoff career high before halftime. Melton has developed into a strong outside shooter — 38.8 percent on high volume over the last three seasons — but the 24-year-old had two subpar postseasons with the Grizzlies, knocking down just 17 of 64 threes overall (26.6 percent).
“I felt good coming in today, honestly,” Melton said. “Just the energy around the whole team, around the whole organization was good vibes. I just wanted to go out there and play with confidence.
“With Jo going down, there’s more shots out there, more opportunities, so just try to take advantage of everything. My teammates were trusting me, so I just kept shooting.”
Melton and Maxey have built plenty of trust — and good vibes — during their first season as teammates. Maxey is the favorite in their regular shooting contests, but the 22-year-old understands that Melton’s jumper has dangerous potential.
And though the two like to tease each other about rough patches or miscues, neither lacks seriousness.
Maxey shared that Melton prodded him to increase his aggression in Game 1 against an opponent he’d had trouble against this regular season.
“(Assistant coach) Sam Cassell and (skill development coach) Spencer Rivers, they were like, ‘They're forcing you left. Dude, you can go left. You work on it every single day. Shoot the shots they’re giving you.’" Maxey said. "A lot of my shots went in and out tonight — I made some that counted — but I got great looks. (P.J. Tucker) set really good screens, (Paul Reed) set really good screens, and I was able to get downhill.
“Melt got on me at halftime about going downhill. He felt like I was stopping and not being aggressive. And that’s what I did, man. That’s why I really appreciate my teammates, because they have really pushed me this season to be the best I can possibly be for this team. It’s worked out for us.”
Maxey ultimately shot just 2 for 9 from three-point range, but he recorded a game-high four steals. That included a rather fortunate late takeaway that he turned into a go-ahead, fast-break hoop with 28.9 seconds left … after a little confusion.
“We were scrambling,” Maxey said. “We got them off the (three-point line) two or three times. I closed out on (Jayson) Tatum, got him off the three. … Then I caught it and I’m running. And I don’t know if I heard the whistle or the horn, but I was about to pick the ball up. I’m so glad I just kept going. Just right place, right time.”
MAXEY OFF THE STEAL ð±
SIXERS LEAD BY 1 WITH 0:28 TO PLAY.
ðº: TNT | Game 1 | PHI at BOS pic.twitter.com/HfsrXMjyYa
— NBA (@NBA) May 2, 2023
Melton, who was No. 2 in the NBA with 126 total steals, has a knack for “right place, right time” plays.
On Monday, he didn’t mind seeing his teammate make a huge one.