The Sixers Used Simple Actions to get Tyrese Maxey Going Early in Game One

The Sixers put on an offensive clinic in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, trouncing Toronto by 20 points.

Tyrese Maxey led the way with 38, and afterward, both head coaches made vague references to schematic things that unlocked his abilities.

First up, Nick Nurse (bold emphasis is mine) –

“They got him going early with a couple of little sets that got him downhill. He got some really naked looks. I think we did a lot of some of that stuff in the first half that was just on us. We just weren’t connected defensively. Making the right reads on some of that stuff. It was just too many wide, wide open looks. We’re gonna be moving around a lot, usually sprinting back out there to a shooter, and there was a lot of those uncontested. And he just kept finding everything. He found transition. He found kick out threes. He found little pick-and-roll plays heading downhill pretty fast. We just didn’t catch up to him very good.”

And here’s what Doc Rivers had to say:

“He was great, I mean we worked on that little action for four days and his speed is a factor, we know that, we have to keep using it, putting him in space, some nights maybe him driving and passing, tonight it was him driving and getting to the basket and making shots.” 

It’s funny because the words “action” and “set” are used interchangeably these days. We traditionally think of sets as being half court “plays,” while actions are more like sequential movements in open-concept basketball, kind of like patterns of play that occur in multi-option looks. All of that is a fancy way of saying that I watched the first 20 shots of the game twice over, and noticed that Maxey was used in a variety of ways.

First, they got him started with an early pick and roll:

Nothing crazy here. Just a good screen from Joel Embiid on a spread pick and roll, and Tyrese is quick to turn the corner and hit the floater.

Another action I noticed:

Brett Brown used to run this all the time with JJ Redick and Ben Simmons. It’s a “12” pick and roll, aka guard/guard to force switches and make defenders react quickly. It’s really tough to guard. Maxey in this case slides out of the screen and takes advantage of Scottie Barnes being disoriented, then just drives right to the hoop. This action is a good way to get him going downhill and/or find a mismatch for James Harden to iso.

Speaking of iso, one of the nice things about Tyrese this year is that his combination of driving and shooting allows for Harden to just whip these quick passes to the second side after the switch, with the still frame here showing the recovery movement from the defender:

That play finished with a drive to the rack and a bucket.

It’s all really simple, however. Guard + guard pick and roll, force the switch, and then Tyrese slips over to the second side at the break line. Harden fires a pass over to him, and he’s catching and attacking the rotating defender, or simply pulling up from three. He’s been incredibly versatile this year, which makes these simple actions really dangerous.

Great stuff from Maxey, Rivers, and the entire Sixers team. We’ll see if they can carry the momentum into Game 2.

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