PHILADELPHIA – Tyrese Maxey had Sixers fans roaring "Maxey! Maxey! Maxey!” after each electrifying play -- and he crammed a season’s worth into the breakout game of his young career. He wowed on whirlwind layups, connected on 3-pointers from Curry-range and did whatever he desired at all times as he dismantled the Raptors.
He even chucked the ball he autographed as the 76ers star of the game into the stands — where a fan made a two-handed grab.
Everything worked out for Maxey.
Maxey scored 21 of his playoff career-high 38 points in the third quarter and he hit five 3-pointers to lead Philadelphia to a 131-111 victory over Toronto in Game 1 on Saturday night.
“I think the only thing I'm going to remember is us winning,” Maxey said.
Philly will remember so much more.
James Harden had 22 points and 14 assists in his first Eastern Conference playoff game as a Sixer. Joel Embiid, the NBA scoring champion, had 19 points and 15 rebounds. They combined to only make 11 of 32 shots from the floor.
Tobias Harris scored 26 points for the Sixers, trying to get past the second round for the first time since 2001.
They host Game 2 on Monday.
The opener belonged to Maxey. The 21-year-old Maxey is the youngest Sixer ever to score at least 30 points in a playoff game.
“I saw growth, man,” Harden said. “I saw him from being up-and-down and not really having consistent minutes last year in the postseason to starting and having a huge role on a championship-contending team.”
Maxey was cool and confident in the third as he swished a 32-footer late in the period for a 20-point lead that sent his teammates on the bench into a frenzy. The Raptors were stunned and had no answer for him: Maxey made 7 of 8 shots overall, both 3s and all five free throws in 12 minutes.
“He just doesn't play with anxiety,” coach Doc Rivers said. “There’s not a lot that ruffles him.”
Pascal Siakam scored 24 points for the Raptors, who lost rookie Scottie Barnes to an ankle injury to worsen what was already a miserable night. OG Anunoby scored 20 and Fred VanVleet added 18.
“Collectively as a team, we just didn’t match the intensity,” Siakam said.
The Sixers took control in the first 24 minutes and Maxey stepped on the gas in the third against a team that won the season series 3-1 (with Embiid and Harden in the lineup for the last two).
Maxey, the 6-foot-2 bundle of energy in his second season out of Kentucky, led the fast start early with a pair of 3s and 10 quick points that had the Sixers rolling with a double-digit lead.
The Sixers are Embiid and Harden’s team, and as they go, so go the Sixers. But Maxey gives the 76ers a Big 2 3/4 and was more than just an able replacement for the traded Ben Simmons.
Maxey emerged as a reliable scoring option -- 18.7 points and 48% on 3s after the All-Star break -- and was on target from tipoff against Toronto. He made 6 of 10 shots and his 15 points in the first half were one shy of matching his playoff high set last season in Game 6 against Atlanta.
Ah, yes. Atlanta. The Hawks series still had Philly on edge this week, as the stench of three home losses and a second-round exit as the No. 1 seed wafted into this season.
The Raptors inched within 11 in the third but Harden -- the bold trade deadline acquisition made for these moments -- buried a 3 and a layup.
Harden then heaved a two-handed bounce pass from midcourt that Maxey caught in stride for a high-flying, reverse layup. The Sixers led by 18, Toronto called a timeout and the Philly crowd went wild.
The Sixers outscored the Raptors 29-10 on fast-break points.
“He's running. You've got to reward him,” Harden said of his top-spin pass. “He was running so fast and we had an opportunity to capitalize on transition.”
The Raptors only seriously challenged late in the first half. Embiid was hit with a flagrant after he clobbered Barnes on a drive. Barnes made 1 of 2 free throws and the Raptors scored off his miss to pull to 48-42.
Embiid, though, made the Raptors pay moments later. He sneered on a bucket and forced VanVleet (who fouled out in the fourth) to his third foul. Embiid converted the three-point play for a 57-42 lead.
Maxey took it from there.
“He’s been doing that all season,” Embiid said. “It’s only one game. We need to do it three more times.”
Barnes grabbed his left foot and was in apparent pain after Embiid stepped on his foot in the fourth. He needed help to the locker room. Barnes, a top contender for Rookie of the Year, averaged 15.3 points in 74 games. ... F Thaddeus Young left with a sprained left thumb. Coach Nick Nurse said X-rays on both players were negative.
Nurse, who led the Raptors to the 2019 NBA championship, thought five fouls called on Embiid weren't enough.
“I don't care if you're 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, if you beat him to the spot and he runs you over, it's a foul,” Nurse said. “I thought he threw three or four elbows to the face. He got called for one. We're going to stand in there.”
Raptors: Had just two offensive rebounds in the first half. ... Chris Boucher also fouled out.
76ers: Rapper Meek Mill and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. sat courtside. ...Had no turnovers in the first half. Turned the ball over on the first possession of the second half. and made just three overall. ... Matisse Thybulle had three points in 19 minutes. He won’t be available for Games 3 and 4 in Toronto because he’s not fully vaccinated.
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