The contest between the Philadelphia 76ers and Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night served as a showcase of two of the best young point guards in the entire NBA — Ja Morant and Tyrese Maxey. Morant, who is in his third season, was just voted to his first All-Star game as a starter, and he has established himself as one of the most dynamic players in the league.
Maxey, in his second season, looks like he has the potential to make an All-Star appearance, or two, of his own in the near future. The Kentucky product has done an extremely admirable job in his first season starting for Philadelphia in Ben Simmons‘ absence and the win over Memphis proved to be one of his most impressive performances of the season.
When it was announced that Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid would miss the game for rest, it became clear that other players on the roster were going to need to step up if Philadelphia was going to walk away with a win, and that’s exactly with Maxey did. He came out in attack mode from the jump — he scored 11 points in the first quarter of action — and he maintained that intensity over the course of the contest.
It took 53 minutes, but ultimately the Sixers were able to pull out a 122-119 win, thanks largely to Maxey’s production — 33 points, eight assists and four blocks.
With the Sixers down 119-118, Maxey scored the go-ahead basket for Philadelphia, and then he also scored the final nail in the coffin thanks to an extremely heady save by Matisse Thybulle in the closing seconds.
It was clear that Morant brought the best out of Maxey, and vice versa, as Morant finished the game with 37 points, five assists and five rebounds — his seventh straight 30-plus point performance. As it typically is, Morant’s performance was filled with fancy footwork, logic-defying athleticism and improbable finishes around the rim.
Ultimately, Morant’s production wasn’t enough to lift Memphis to its fourth straight win, but he certainly put on a show for the fans in Philadelphia. Even though these electric, 30-plus point performances are becoming commonplace for Morant, they shouldn’t be taken for granted.
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After the game, Maxey was asked to describe the battle between himself and Morant. Here’s what he had to say: “Two competitors trying to win. That’s about it. He’s an All-Star starter. We know what he can do, he’s very talented. Dynamic getting downhill, very athletic. We just did our best to try to contain him and get a W.”
Maxey’s development this season has been a gamechanger for Philadelphia, as he has quickly blossomed into an integral part of the team’s core alongside Embiid. Speaking of Embiid, the big man was ecstatic that his teammates were able to pull out a tough win without his services.
Embiid was obviously impressed with Maxey’s performance, as was Tobias Harris, who added 31 points in the win for Philly.
“He was great out there tonight,” Harris said of Maxey after the game. “His speed all throughout the game, his energy level, big plays in the fourth quarter and overtime, really the whole game. He just had that energy, that look in him out there that he wanted to get to it and he had a great night for us. A big reason why we won that game.”
Despite the plethora of injury issues that they’ve had to deal with, and the fact that one of their best players has refused to play for the team all season, the Sixers now sit just a half-game out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. While Embiid’s MVP-worthy play is the main reason for the team’s success, Maxey’s play has also been a big factor, and his value to the Sixers was on full display against the Grizzlies.