Maxey makes most of coronavirus crisis as Sixers lose with seven players

By Ben Spratt 10 January 2021 5
Maxey makes most of coronavirus crisis as Sixers lose with seven players

A second defeat in three days was rather easier to take for the Philadelphia 76ers as their depleted roster went down fighting against the Denver Nuggets. 

Philadelphia fell to 7-3 for the season but could take great heart from their latest loss, perhaps at odds with Thursday's reverse at the hands of a Brooklyn Nets team missing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. 

This time it was the Sixers' turn to go without their star men in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, while Seth Curry was absent after he tested positive for COVID-19 - he was told of his result as he attended the Nets game. 

Contact tracing left Doc Rivers with just eight players to choose from, though one of them - Mike Scott – did not feature due to a knee issue.

The Nuggets' 115-103 success came as no surprise then, but the relatively narrow margin was just reward for a makeshift Philadelphia team.  The Sixers led in the game as late as midway through the second quarter and never let Denver get away from them, even if the result scarcely seemed in doubt.

Gary Harris' 21 points led the way for the Nuggets, while Nikola Jokic was just shy of another triple-double with 15 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. 

Three of the Sixers' five 2020 draft picks were among the seven players involved, with Tyrese Maxey in particular rising to the occasion, given the responsibility to lead the team despite Rivers jokingly suggesting before the game that center Dwight Howard would play at point guard. 

Maxey, selected 21st in the first round out of Kentucky, had not previously started in the NBA and had averaged 6.9 points in 15.7 minutes over his first nine games. 

Remarkably, the 20-year-old put up a massive 39 points in 45 minutes, along with seven rebounds, six assists and two steals. 

Maxey not only outstripped his previous NBA high of 16 - against Brooklyn - but also his best performance in his single college season with Kentucky (27 points). 

Since 1963-64, only Allen Iverson - on 11 occasions in 1996-97 - and Andrew Toney - once in 1980-81 - had previously scored 35 points or more in a game as a rookie for the franchise. 

Second-round picks Isaiah Joe (13 points in 45 minutes) and Paul Reed (six in 26 off the bench) also enjoyed their unlikely opportunities, showing Philadelphia's strength in depth.

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