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November 12, 2023

Sixers game notes: Tyrese Maxey scores career-high 50 points in win over Pacers

Tyrese Maxey was on another level in the Sixers' 137-126 win over the Pacers Sunday night as he and Joel Embiid combined for 51 first-half points.

The Sixers played host to the Pacers Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center and dominated Indiana, 137-126, in what was the first of two straight between the two down in South Philadelphia. 

The second matchup, and the Sixers' second for group play in the NBA's in-season tournament, will be Tuesday night. 

But until then, here's what stood out from Sunday night's win:

Kelly Oubre Jr. update

Oubre Jr., who has starred in his role for the Sixers so far this season, was a pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle in Center City Saturday night. The Sixers say he suffered a fractured rib and will be re-evaluated in approximately one week.

"Surely, it could have been much worse," Sixers head coach Nick Nurse told the media before Sunday's game. "Not as bad as maybe feared in the beginning, so we're thankful for that."

Oubre Jr. has averaged 16.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game this season, giving the Sixers a major boost of energy both off the bench and in a starting role. His athleticism, shooting, defense and enthusiasm have all stood out early in the season. 

"He's been very business-like. He comes in and plays hard, practices hard, is a likable personality... I know that a lot of the guys reached out immediately," Nurse said. "[Oubre Jr.] said the amount of love he received from the team was awesome."

On the basketball side of things, Oubre Jr.'s absence presents some imminent decisions for Nurse. The first one was rather simple: replacing Oubre Jr. in the starting lineup with Nicolas Batum, who has excelled since being acquired by the Sixers. Batum's versatile three-point shooting skill and intense defense make him the ideal role player for a team like this one, and his insertion into the starting lineup was likely an inevitability.

Elsewhere, there were more wing minutes to be redistributed. Nurse opted to give more playing time to Robert Covington, whose defense has been very good since his return to Philadelphia, as well as to bring both Danuel House Jr. and Furkan Korkmaz back into the rotation. House Jr. and Korkmaz have been in and out of the rotation throughout the season.

Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey dominate early

It is no secret that the Sixers' best offensive actions run through their two best offensive players: Embiid and Maxey. The combination of Embiid's vertical gravity as a dominant interior and mid-range scorer and Maxey's ability to stop on a dime and pull up for a jumper or floater from any spot on the floor makes it nearly impossible to defend both at the same time when they are surrounded by adequate three-point shooters. And so, the Sixers spent their first several possessions isolating the two of them and running pick-and-rolls over... and over... and over.

The two of them went on to do heavy damage on their own later in the first half. When Maxey checked out in the middle of the first quarter – already with eight points  Embiid completely took over the game, finishing the period with 19 points on eight field goal attempts. It was vintage Embiid, scoring in the low post and drawing fouls just about every time down the court. 

When Embiid sat down for his customary rest at the beginning of the second quarter, Maxey went on a torrid stretch of his own, adding 13 more points in just the first three minutes or so of the period. It was a two-man scoring avalanche unlike any the Sixers have had in recent memory.

An old friend makes an impact

Former Sixers guard T.J. McConnell, now in his fifth season with Indiana, checked in early in the second quarter after Maxey's dominant stretch reached its peak. The game looked like it was headed for a 48-minute blowout. McConnell may be the biggest reason why Indiana was able to outscore the Sixers in the second quarter. He was the best version of himself – a complete and total irritant on the defensive end, disrupting everything the Sixers tried to do. He forced a handful of turnovers, and when he wasn't doing that, he was making life much more difficult for Maxey, who cooled down later in the first half. 

Sixers struggle with Pacers' up-tempo play style

The Pacers are one of the fastest-paced teams in the NBA. Nurse acknowledged it before the game.

"Obviously, their pace," Nurse said when asked what stands out about the opposition. "When they get it up the floor, they score quick, with highly efficient shots... these guys can do it because of their depth."

One of the key points of emphasis against such a fast-paced team led by a brilliant floor general like Pacers star guard Tyrese Haliburton is to get back on defense after made baskets to ensure Haliburton cannot manufacture transition opportunities. That is not something the Sixers did successfully for much of this game. 

Haliburton and co. were able to generate quick, efficient looks time and time again. The Pacers turned this game into a track meet, which is exactly what the Sixers were hoping to avoid.

Tyrese Maxey puts the finishing touches on the win

The Sixers rested Embiid for the first eight and a half minutes of the fourth quarter, far longer than usual – possibly because of the pace of the game. That gave Maxey a license to take over, and he did just that. Maxey dominated yet again in the fourth quarter, propelling himself to a career-high of 50 points. Indiana made a valiant effort all night to take control of the game, but never quite could.

Their biggest obstacle: Maxey.