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Monday, April 15, 2024

Tyrese Maxey thrown way off by Suns defense

Devin Booker led the Suns to victory over Tyrese Maxey and the 76ers.

The Philadelphia 76ers fumbled a decent start and lost in rough fashion to the Phoenix Suns. The Sixers got steamrolled in the second half in a mostly forgettable performance with hardly any redeemable values. The most enjoyable part of this game for Philly was probably Ricky Council IV trash-talking Kevin Durant in garbage time.

Tyrese Maxey recorded seven assists and a measly six points in the loss. Kelly Oubre Jr.’s 18 points led the 76ers and KJ Martin notched a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds (though most of that came in garbage time). Grayson Allen drained nine triples on his way to 32 points, Devin Booker notched 18 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds and Durant added 22 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

Maxey was really bad in this game, making it almost impossible for the 76ers to win. Horrible defense and rebounding also did them in but without their star rolling, there was no shot of stealing a W here. Let’s jump into the film, focusing on why one University of Kentucky guard balled out and another one stalled out.

Messy Maxey

Maxey played one of his worst games of the season in the loss to Phoenix, scoring just six points on 3-13 shooting with no threes made or free throws attempted. The results were obviously bad and the process was also not good.

There were rarely clear paths for Maxey to get a shot at the rim in part because the Sixers’ spacing was suboptimal on several possessions. But he also did himself no favors by playing into the defense’s hands. He forced the issue way too much, resulting in a lot of bad looks.

Jusuf Nurkic plays the drop coverage after rising to the level of the screen very well in the above clip. He forces Maxey to take a second beat and put Bradley Beal before dropping down to the paint to take away the lob and provide extra resistance for Maxey. Beal’s defensive rep is pretty good, too, as he gets off of Maxey’s back and forces a miss.

Maxey attacking Nurkic downhill should be like a defensive end trying to cover Tyreek Hill. Yet the few chances he got to do that, he passed it up. Opting for this deep three over trying to make Nurkic backpedal to contain him was a bad choice.

Maxey did at least keep the ball moving with seven assists and just one turnover. But the balance of scoring for himself and making plays is still something he’s growing accustomed to as the top option. There are a few times in this game where he should have used his scoring gravity to make a pass to an open teammate.

The best read on this play here is to swing it to Kyle Lowry in the corner. His man is taking Reed and Reed’s man is sliding over to contest Maxey. A quick swing to Lowry is, admittedly, not a simple pass for a small guard but it would put Durant in a one-on-two bind. Lowry can be trusted to make the decision between either shooting or swinging the ball to Oubre. Maxey, rather than make the pass, tries to squeak a layup over Nurkic and it’s a miss.

In the 76ers’ prior game, Maxey explained in great detail how he needed to improve his pull-up game. It served him extremely well in that win over the Miami Heat but he largely abandoned it against the Suns. One of his few scores from the game was indeed a pull-up jumper, which he drained from 14 feet away against a double team.

There will be so many more great Maxey nights that this one will eventually fade far out of memory.

Read ’em like a book

The Suns missed their first nine shots of the game and still shot the lights out. They punctured Philly’s perimeter defense with ease and kept the ball moving really well. Eventually, the energy found them and they pulled away. Booker was the primary engine that drove the desert squad to victory.

Booker has been one of basketball’s best scorers for years now. He’s gotten even better at exposing how much attention he generates, resulting in consistent improvements in his assist outputs. When he beats his man — which is often — the defense has to collapse.

Part of why Booker’s playmaking was so good was because his passes were crisp and he used his peripheral vision to see teammates. Since the 76ers got late jumps on the passes and the players they closed out to were already in shooting motion, they had a really hard time keeping up. Even if Booker isn’t the one creating the defensive breakdown, like in the play below, he can use it perfectly. Especially when he’s manipulating a defense to assist a shooter who’s more than comfortable shooting from well beyond the arc, it’s a wrap.

Booker even set Beal up on a no-look swing after drawing his man over to help. Once again, looking straight ahead and firing a pass right to Beal’s hands makes for an easy look.

Allen’s comfort with shooting from so deep makes a lot of these assists possible. Still, Booker makes it even easier for his teammate by setting him up for looks without the defense being tipped off. Lowry has way too much space to cover to get this shot because he has to be ready to help on a Booker drive, which appears to be the play by the way Book is looking.

The Suns, on the whole, are underachieving this season given how many resources they’ve exhausted to make this team great. A team spending so much money on salaries and that has traded nearly every possible draft pick should not be a likely play-in tournament team. But they do have the benefit of having a star like Booker who has nuclear capabilities and can steer them to success.

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About the Author

Sam DiGiovanni started at ClutchPoints as an associate editor in 2021 and became the site’s Philadelphia 76ers beat reporter ahead of the 2022-23 season. He graduated from Marist College in May of 2022 and has written for TheKnicksWall.com and CenterFieldMarist.com in the past.

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