Thursday, September 28

James Harden’s arrival has taken 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey’s game to another level

The 76ers are firing on all cylinders since James Harden arrived in Philadelphia, winning their third-straight game since the trade.

Harden has his fingerprints all over the offense, combining with Joel Embiid to form one of the most devastating one-two punches in recent memory, but it’s not just the big man who’s reaping the rewards of Harden’s play.

Second-year guard Tyrese Maxey is absolutely feasting in wide-open spaces created by Harden, taking to his role as the third option like a duck to water.

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Sure, the sample size is small, but in the first three games of the new era in Philly, Maxey is putting up some eye-catching numbers, averaging 24.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists on 64.3 percent from the field (!) and 64.3 percent from the 3-point line.

With Harden taking on the ball-handling duties, Maxey has been a blur for opposing defenses, with high lightning-quick speed and off-ball movement, creating a ton of open looks as defenses are forced to help on Harden and collapse in the pick -and-roll when Embiid gets involved.

When the ball’s been in Maxey’s hands, he hasn’t been shy letting it fly.

In their 123-108 win over the Knicks, Maxey had just four points in the first half before some words of encouragement from Harden at the half kicked him into gear.

“James came up to me and asked me if I was going to play today,” Maxey said.

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He then had 21 points in the final 24 minutes of action.

“We need him to be aggressive a lot of times in the game,” Harden said. “I know it’s difficult because, obviously, myself and Jo got the ball, but when he has an opportunity, he needs to be aggressive and we need that. In that second half, he played like we all need him to play and he knows how to play and he looked great.”

In the absence of Ben Simmons, Maxey filled in as the de facto point guard through the first half of the season and was a bright spark for the team running the offense, but he is now back to playing off-ball alongside one of the game’s best creators.

The 21-year-old is relishing being able to do what he does best – score.

“He’s back home when you think about it,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s actually playing the position now that he’s played his whole life of him. So in some ways, he’s very comfortable playing the way he’s playing.”

The 76ers have now climbed to the third seed in the Eastern Conference and are well within striking distance of the No.1 seed, just 2.0 games back of the Miami Heat.

The early returns on the Maxey-Harden-Embiid trio should have the rest of the East looking over their shoulder as they look to continue building their chemistry with 21 games to go.

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