Sixers observations

3 observations after Sixers' trip ends on sour note despite Maxey's 21-point quarter

The Sixers couldn’t capitalize on Maxey’s huge first quarter and fell to a 108-96 loss. 

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The Sixers’ trip out West concluded on a sour note Monday night. 

Despite Tyrese Maxey's sensational 21-point first quarter, the Sixers suffered a 108-96 defeat to the Kings and ended their four-game trip with a 1-3 record.

Maxey had 29 points in the game on 10-for-16 shooting.

De'Aaron Fox and Keegan Murray both scored 23 points for the 42-29 Kings. Domantas Sabonis notched a triple-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

The 39-33 Sixers added Kelly Oubre Jr. to their list of injured players. He sat because of left shoulder soreness, joining Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus procedure), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine bone stress) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise) on the sidelines. 

The Sixers will host the Clippers on Wednesday night. Here are observations on their loss in Sacramento, which snapped a 10-game winning streak against the Kings: 

Maxey catches fire in the first 

Kyle Lowry, who’d rested Sunday in the Sixers’ win over the Clippers, started on his 38th birthday. Buddy Hield moved back to the bench and Nicolas Batum filled Oubre’s spot. 

Maxey opened the night guarding Murray, who scored seven of the Kings’ first nine points. Keon Ellis began the game defending Maxey, although the Sixers targeted Maxey vs. Murray switches. 

The Sixers’ supporting cast didn’t help their star guard much at all. Tobias Harris committed a turnover after the Kings blitzed Maxey on the perimeter, Ellis got an easy transition layup, and Sixers head coach Nick Nurse called timeout with his team trailing 13-5.

No Sixer besides Maxey scored until a Paul Reed reverse dunk at the 3:25 mark of the first quarter. Incredibly, Reed’s slam tied the contest at 18-all because Maxey’s solo show was so brilliant. 

The 23-year-old was shifty and sharp when given the chance to size up bigger Kings defenders. And when Sacramento turned to zone defense for a possession, he casually swished a layup-looking three. Perhaps the Kings should’ve dialed up their aggression on Maxey sooner and thrown blitzes at him play after play, but deep, pure jump shooting and elite downhill driving will often be hard for any defense to handle. Many of Maxey’s makes were not badly guarded. 

At the end of the first quarter, Maxey had 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting (4 for 6 from three-point range). His teammates scored just four first-quarter points — all of them off the bench — on 2-for-12 shooting. The Sixers faced a six-point deficit to start the second period and Maxey sat. 

Woefully short on secondary offense

KJ Martin subbed in early Monday night and defended Murray. Before the first quarter was complete, he’d picked up three fouls. Ricky Council IV was next up on Murray. The second-year Kings forward immediately drained a corner three and tallied 17 first-quarter points of his own. 

While the Sixers’ defense on Murray improved from there, the team’s offense outside of Maxey remained insufficient. The Sixers did hold up fine to begin the second quarter, tying the game at 36-all on a Harris layup, but no one besides Maxey could make a three-point shot or do anything to meaningfully change the complexion of the game. Every other Sixer combined to go 0 for 8 from long distance in the first half. Harris missed 10 of his first 13 field goals.

At halftime, Harris and Reed were the Sixers’ joint No. 2 scorers with six points each. Reed, who’s the only Sixers player to appear in every game so far this season, reached 1,000 points in his NBA career. 

Meanwhile, Sacramento got a 10-point first half from second-unit guard Davion Mitchell. He did his thing as an intense, pesky defender, and the Sixers were twice whistled for illegal ball screens against him. In general, the Sixers were sloppy late in the second quarter and looked the part of a shorthanded team wrapping up a back-to-back and a West Coast trip.

An unpleasant finale to the trip

Though Lowry hit a three on the Sixers’ first possession of the third, the team failed to eat into Sacramento's lead.

Batum air-balled a wide-open jumper and the Sixers then had a couple of empty trips that didn't feature Maxey. Harris' touch was still poor in and around the paint.

While deferring to Maxey would’ve been especially sensible Monday night, Harris’ abysmal shooting from all ranges was a larger problem than his approach. He even missed an unguarded layup in the third quarter. 

Maxey didn't score in the third period and the Kings predictably grabbed full control of the game. Sabonis powered through a handful of knocks to the head and posted a record-setting 54th consecutive double-double.

While the final result wasn't in suspense for most of the second half, DJ Wilson's play was an unexpected Sixers bright spot.

Suiting up for the second official day of his 10-day contract, Wilson entered late in the third quarter and shared a frontcourt with Martin. He made a pick-and-pop three on his first shot and sunk a spot-up corner triple on his second. Clearly, the 28-year-old was ready for real minutes. He finished the night with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting, two rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

Wilson helped the Sixers cut their margin of defeat, but the fourth quarter was by no means a great one for the team.

Hield, who shot 0 for 6 from three-point range Monday, limped off at the 2:27 mark of the fourth. X-rays on Hield's ankle were negative, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer's Gina Mizell.

Overall, not close to how the Sixers wanted to end their West Coast swing.

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