For one night at least, the Philadelphia 76ers dispelled any worries their supporters might have had about this series against the Toronto Raptors. They did not turn the ball over in the first half (and only committed three turnovers total for the game), won the offensive rebounding battle (10-to-7), and tallied 29 fast break points to Toronto’s 10. They won the non -Joel Minutes! Add in the Sixers shooting 50 percent from three (16-of-32), and it was one of the more flawless playoff performances we’ve seen from this team in some time. Let’s get tonight’s truly excellent top performers from the 131-111 win.
Tyrese Maxey: 38 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 turnovers
Tyrese Maxey is 21 years old and was making his first career playoff start Saturday night. I just wanted to remind you of the context for Maxey’s 38-point explosion in which he shot 14-of-21 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from three, and 5-of-5 from the foul line. Not only is Maxey the fastest player on the court, but he has also worked himself into being the most dangerous shooter on the floor as well. It seems like a cheat code. Tyrese routinely sped by Toronto defenders (incredibly athletic in their own right) and used his tremendous body control and touch to finish around the rim.
He scored 21 points in the third quarter alone, the highest-scoring playoff quarter for a Sixer since Allen Iverson in 2001. His heat check three from the logo during that surge was like watching a Marvel movie where the hero learns to fully harness their powers for the first time. Doc Rivers kept Maxey in the game an extra minute at the end so the team could force feed him a couple possessions to try and get 40 points. Tyrese missed on those attempts; it was the only instance of him falling short all night. Youngest Sixer ever to score at least 30 points in a playoff game. Cherish him.
James Harden: 22 points, 5 rebounds, 14 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover
James Harden’s Sixers playoff debut was a smashing success. The outside shot was working for the Beard, as he drained four of his seven three-point attempts, including multiple of his signature stepback from him. Just as crucially, the Toronto defense was always aware of throwing bodies at Harden, which opened up plenty of passing lanes for him to find his teammates. A 14:1 assist-to-turnover ratio will be praise-worthy any night, but when some of those assists are coming at the caliber of Harden throwing an overhead full-court bounce pass to a full-speed Tyrese Maxey, you just have to stop and appreciate that you’re watching greatness.
Joel Embiid: 19 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 0 turnovers
Embiid didn’t put up the huge scoring numbers we’ve come to expect from the MVP candidate, but that doesn’t speak to the impact he had on this game. Joel was utterly dominant on the glass, creating second-chance opportunities, and often leaving the undersized Raptors with no choice but to foul him. Embiid was the biggest reason (literally and figuratively) that two Raptors fouled out in this game. Also, tip of the cap to Joel for remaining patient and making the right reads when Toronto sent extra men at him. He didn’t try to force things on his way to 30-plus points because scoring the basketball is the easiest way to garner praise; he did what he needed to do to best help his team get the win. Oh, and in a game where he and Pascal Siakam were getting chippy, I blocked the Raptors star’s shot attempt into the crowd.
Tobias Harris: 26 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover
It speaks to how well the Sixers played that Tobias gets fourth billing in what was a terrific performance. He pushed the ball himself in transition a few times and kicked out to the open teammate. Harris hit a pair of those catch-and-shoot threes which we called for forever and he has finally embraced. His third three of him (on five total attempts) came off a really nice pump fake to let the defender fly by and then one-dribble reset before hoisting it up. Tobi also scored in a variety of other ways. I have posted Fred VanVleet off a transition mismatch for a “mouse in the house” bucket. He scored via turnaround and pull-up jumpers, cuts and driving floaters. I only really remember one dribble-the-air-out, wasted possession from Tobias, and he was instrumental in carrying the non-Embiid minutes in the first half. This is the Playoff Tobias the Sixers want and need.
Strong cut and finish from Tobias Harris here.
Harris does a good job of cutting behind and getting a step ahead once Achiuwa shifts closer to Embiid. pic.twitter.com/yTVxgwmYbh
— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) April 16, 2022