University of Kentucky product Tyrese Maxey lit up the outgunned Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the first-round 2022 NBA playoff series, becoming the youngest 76ers player in history to score 30 points in a playoff game. Maxey, 21, scored in plenty of ways too, including five 3-pointers on his way to 38 points in the 131-111 victory in Philadelphia.
Many hoops pundits — Shaquille O’Neal among them — have said that come playoff time, newly acquired 76ers point guard James Harden would have to give up being a 14-assists guy and become a 35-point scorer. “Fourteen assists is cool, but,” Shaq has said, indicating that it wasn’t what Philly would need.
As if to troll the O’Neals of the media, Harden tallied exactly 14 assists in the opener, many of them to Maxey.
Maxey sometimes returned the favor…
Harden added 22 points and made just one turnover, as Maxey more than doubled his regular season average of 17.5 ppg.
Harden has long been a magnet for criticism despite his long success in the league and being named NBA MVP in 2018. He plays a unique style designed to frustrate opponents (and critics), which focuses on exploiting weaknesses in the opposition’s defense. Sometimes he exploits that weakness by scoring, other times by passing.
Whether Harden can play championship level defense remains the big question as the 76ers try to move on.