Before the first game, Maxey has fond memories of the first night without Embiid of the season

BOSTON — Tyrese Maxey has fond memories of the Sixers’ first game this year without Joel Embiid.

Asked Monday morning before filming at TD Garden about the team’s recent work on small-ball lineups, Maxey recalled an Oct. 28 road win over the Raptors.

He scored a career-high 44 points that night.

“I wouldn’t even say last week,” Maxey said. “I think this year, starting early. We were 1-4, we had to go over there to Toronto and win a game without the big guy. Then we went on a short three-game winning streak. I think we found something there. And at different times of the year, because different guys got injured, we had to try new things. I think it helped and prepared us for this moment.

We’ll soon find out if the Sixers are indeed down Embiid for Game 1 of their second-round playoff series against the Celtics.

The All-Star big man was sidelined with a sprained right knee. He took jumpers after Sixers practice on Sunday alongside James Harden and head coach Doc Rivers said he was “getting better every day”. Embiid, who is officially listed as questionable, was present at the shoot on Monday morning.

As Maxey showed in late October, he has become quite comfortable playing a more powerful style, the first shot when Embiid sits. In 10 games without Embiid this year, Maxey has averaged 28.9 points on 50.2/44.4/84.9 shooting, 5.0 assists and just 1.3 turnovers.

He’s struggled this season against the Celtics, but maybe that record of nights without Embiid will ultimately serve him well.

“I kind of figured out when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, when to be a point shooter and when to manage,” Maxey said. “Everything we need me to do tonight. We will always have James (Harden) there. Jo maybe, I don’t know. We’re just going to go out there and try to win the game, honestly. Whatever it takes, whatever it entails, that’s my game plan.

Including their decisive win over the Nets, the Sixers go into Monday night 12-5 this season with Embiid out. Those dozen wins haven’t all been the same — for example, Paul Reed played 30 more minutes against Brooklyn in Game 4 than he did on Maxey’s record night — but the Sixers have found ways to cobble together wins. In many of those outings, they played at a faster pace, varied their defenses and received great performances from their guards.

“I think we have so many guys who are confident in their game,” Maxey said. “And then we have greats like Paul Reed, (Montrezl Harrell) and (Dewayne Dedmon). And then PJ Tucker can (also) play all five. I think the guys are really confident in that. Defensively, we know what we have to do now. We know we need to be more scrappy, more aggressive and put more pressure on them because we know we don’t have that safety net on the edge of Joel.

Maxey came into the NBA with Reed, who was picked 58th overall in the 2020 draft, won G League MVP his rookie season and eventually got some pretty steady backup center minutes.

“I just understand what we’re doing,” Rivers said Sunday of Reed’s development. “Understanding who he is. Gaining the trust of his teammates. … You have to get all of that to play, and you have to be able to execute things. When you can’t, it’s hard to play you big minutes. It’s just.

“But he is young and he has improved. He understands his role in the team better and he plays there most of the time. … It was great to see. It takes the time, it takes the work. But he also worked last year. What he didn’t understand was how to play the game and play well. And he does that.

When Maxey and Reed have shared press conference podiums over the past few years, the 22-year-old guard has a habit of going out of his way to praise the DePaul product’s work ethic and constant desire to improve. .

Whatever happens with Embiid, beating the defending Eastern Conference champions is clearly no easy task for the Sixers. However, Maxey and Reed are the kind of players ready for any challenge.

“I think the only thing we want to do is go out there and compete,” Maxey said. “Compete as hard as possible. I think we are ready for now.

“We have a lot of guys who have a lot to prove – the coaching staff, the organization – and we’re going to fight and have a good time. I don’t mean literally fight, but I mean go out there and really compete. We have some really competitive guys, and I think that’s going to help us.

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