With just over two minutes left Game 3 against the Brooklyn NetworksAnd Therese Maxi The ball danced at the top of the key. for him Philadelphia Seventy Sixers five late. James Harden – the man usually charged with creating shots in these situations – was watching the action from the visitor’s locker room at the Barclays Center after he was sent off. Joel Embiidthe man normally tasked with hitting batters in these situations, had no lift or explosion after injuring his knee earlier in the game.
It was all on Maxi. The Sixers won the first two games of their first round matchup. Another victory would kill any hope the Nets had. Set Screen Embiid. This action confused the Nets defense. Maxie crossed to his left, got up from behind the 3-point line and buried a jump.
Just over a minute later, with the game tied, he was back in the same spot. He danced with the ball at the top of the switch again, and dug his left foot into the hardwood, freezing the net guard. Spencer Dinwiddie. Hesitation was all Maxi needed. Step back behind the three-point line and throw the ball up in the air. It splashed across the net, giving Maxey his 5th 3-pointer of the night and the Sixers a 3-point lead.
Later that night, the Nates Guard Seth Currywho has played alongside Maxey in Philadelphia for over a season and who is one of the most accurate three-point shooters in NBA history, was asked how his former teammate was doing.
“He’s a shooter now,” Carey said.
The “now” was necessary, because not long ago, Maxey seemed to be a bad 3-point shooter. As a junior with the Sixers, he rarely attempted shots from deep (only 1.1 per game). And when he did, they rarely entered (30.1%). It’s not like this is a blip on the radar either. The previous year, as a freshman at Kentuckyhe connected only 29.2% of deep looks – that was at 3.6 launches per game.
However, the Sixers were never worried. From their point of view, there was plenty of reason to believe Maxi’s numbers were misleading, and not only was he not a bad shooter, he was actually quite good. These current percentages do not determine a player’s future shooting potential. Maxi, who is just 22 and finishing his third season in the NBA – he digs 43.4% of his three-pointers during the regular season and 50% On the first round – this proves them right.
in Tuesday night game 5 From the semi-final series to the team with BostonMaxey’s shooting broke the Celtics’ momentum several times. After the Boston crowd got going in the fourth quarter, the Maxi buried the 3 with just over nine minutes to go calm them down and steady the ship.
Then he hit the dagger with less than four. He finished with 30 points on 10-of-21 shooting, including 6-of-12 from long range – a welcome mark after sliding below 30% for the series. With a 115-103 win, the Sixers now lead 3-2 Chance to snatch at home on Thursday.
“I’ve worked my whole life at hitting the ball,” Maxey said after coaching the Sixers in late April. “I’ve always been a good shooter.”
As a child, Maxie would do shooting practice with his father, Tyrone, a former Division I player and high school basketball coach. He was going to a point around the perimeter, Tyrone said, and “he always hit at least seven out of 10”. By high school, the jumpsuit had developed into one of Maxi’s strengths. So much so that, according to his former AAU coach, Josh Woodson, Maxey often pulled from deep on game-winning shots instead of taking the ball to the rim.
“His father will be on it then,” Woodson said between laughter. He’d be like, ‘Boy, you’ve got a no-edge lane. What’s wrong with you? “
That’s why Maxie’s family and coaches were baffled by his shooting struggles in Kentucky. Tyrone remembered that friends asked him why his son suddenly couldn’t hit a jacket. Even Therese, a lively optimist which Sixers head coach Doc Rivers compared to “sunshine”, He called his father at some point to ask the same question.
“I said, ‘Keep going, you’re a great shooter,'” Tyrone recalls.
But as the Sixers did their homework in the run-up to the 2019 draft, they believed there were explanations lurking beneath the surface, and reasons to believe the numbers were misleading. Maxie was both a keen learner and a hard worker, two traits that, at the NBA level, often lead to shooting improvements. Also, at Kentucky, he typically played alongside two big men linked in the paint, an alignment that limited Maxey’s space to create and disrupt offense. In addition, a set of Maxey’s three-pointers came as the shot ran out after a teammate failed to catch a look.
“We wanted to get tough duets,” Maxi said. “[Kentucky head coach John Calipari] large in 2 seconds. So I’ve been shooting, like, a lot of the last three hours on the clock. ”
The Sixers clinched Maxie with the 21st pick in the 2020 draft. At the time, he began coming to the team’s facility in Camden, NJ so frequently and with such gusto that a member of the coaching staff, suspicious of Maxie’s overabundance, called out Kenny Payne, an assistant coach during Maxie’s year at Kentucky, to ask, “Is this all doing, or is this kid real?” In the end, the team institutes mandatory “black days” for Maxie – otherwise he would never take a day off.
During extended gym hours, watch the Sixers Maxi wear thousands of jumpers. Most of them entered. That’s why they remained confident he could develop into a good shooter – even as they watched him miss 70% of his three-pointers and score just eight points in 15.3 minutes per game as a rookie, and even allowed indecision and struggles from defenders to fall back on him, blocking the way for his teammates. . Sixers offense was five points per 100 possessions worse with Maxey on the ground during the 2020-21 season, according to cleaning the glasses.
“I’ve never seen a guy shoot like that in practice and it didn’t translate (into games),” Rivers said in an interview last year.
After the season, Maxey spent time with one of his coaches, Tim Martin, tweaking his mechanics. The first focus was to add an arc to the Maxi shot. Another was making sure Maxie got his feet up before shooting.
“Most players pick up their dribble very early when they come in for a shot with their feet still on the move,” Martin said in an interview last year. “For Tyrese, it was about making sure he dropped one to the ground before going into the shot.”
that fall, Ben Simmonspermanent team keeper He refused to come to training camp, making Maxey the team’s primary ball handler. Maxi said that with more minutes going by and from there, he was able to develop a rhythm.
“My rookie year I didn’t play much,” he said. “I didn’t have a lot of chances.”
Maxi excelled at that job. He more than doubled his score (17.5 points per game). He finished the season with the third-best 3-point shooting percentage in the league, W.J When the Sixers have the ball controlled by James Harden before the 2020 trade deadlinegetting Maxey to play off the ball and making his outside shot more important, Maxey kept shooting.
This season, he has increased his tally to 20.3 points per game. He was the fifth-most accurate player in the league by three points. Celtics big guy Alhorford He was the only player to shoot more than five players per game and have connected at a higher percentage. The Sixers offense was 4.1 points per 100 possessions best with Maxey on the court, according to cleaning the glassesAnd during the playoffs This number increased to 12.
“I can take out a defender, the way I shoot off the ball and dribble, the players have to respect that,” Maxi said. “So now I can kind of get to my drive lanes, get to the edge, get to my float or get to that paint, lock up the defense and launch it.”
These days, the Sixers’ only complaint with Maxey was that just three years ago he seemed unfathomable.
“They were with him about the shooting,” Tyrone said. “He hits the ball very well, they want him to hit more shots.”
Yaron Weitzman is a FOX Sports NBA writer and author Rise to the Top: The Philadelphia ’76ers and the Most Daring Operation in Professional Sports History. Follow him on Twitter @tweet.
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