With the 76ers season in balance, Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey appear as unlikely Game 6 heroes

The 76ers started Friday’s Game 6 at home against the Hawks, looking a lot like a team that lost a 26-point lead in their previous outing. Philadelphia appeared to be in shock as Atlanta took a 20-8 lead in the first quarter.

So with six minutes to go in the first period and the Hawks on the verge of breaking the game wide open, who stole and saved the Sixers? Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey, of course. The two guards combined to score Philly’s last 14 points in the first quarter, reducing the deficit to a more manageable seven points.

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“The lead the other night was such a difficult loss. For them to jump on us – which, honestly, I had anticipated, you knew they were going to come out really high – I really believed that if we weather the storm, a lot of energy would be expended, “76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought from then on we were in control of the game.”

Curry (24 points, 8 of 14 shots) and Maxey (16 points, seven rebounds off the bench) stepped up again and again in Game 6, giving the 76ers a 104-99 victory in a crowded State Farm Arena. and return the series to Philadelphia. With All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons combining for just 28 points on 11 of 30 shots from the field and dealing with early fouling issues, these were the actors who turned the stars with the season in play.

“[Curry has] been huge, ”Embiid said. “His ability to shoot got a lot going, paving the way for everyone. Like I said, it was huge. . . . Without Tyrese, we don’t win this game either. Maxey was huge tonight. He made plays, both offensively and defensively, pushing the pace when Ben was struggling. I’m really happy for him. “

After helping keep the 76ers at striking distance, Curry led the game’s most important run. He scored or assisted on every run of a 14-0 push to start the third quarter, giving Philly a lead he wouldn’t give up.

Maxey, a Kentucky 2020 first-round pick, also won in the second half, acting as the primary ball handler when the threat of Atlanta’s “Hack-A-Ben” strategy kicked in. Maxey also challenged Trae Young on defense, and while he didn’t win every battle, he forced the Hawks star (34 points, 13 of 30 shots) to work on nearly every possessions.

“I actually thought other than Ben Tyrese did the best job on Trae because of his speed,” Rivers said. “And that was one of the things we talked about. The kid, I keep talking about him, he’s struggled in a number of ways defensively this year, but he keeps working. He keeps watching movies with it. [assistant coach] sat [Cassell]. And I thought tonight probably was. . . his best defensive night of the season for him. Just really proud of himself. “

Tobias Harris, who rebounded from a miserable Game 5 with 24 points in the win, credited Maxey with providing a boost “the minute he checked into the game.”

“He just played around with that, basically, the freedom over there,” Harris said. “He wasn’t afraid of the moment, wasn’t shy at all, put himself in his shoes, just gave us that big boost of energy there. It helped us. He was. the spark of the game for us as a whole. “

In addition to Curry and Maxey’s performances, the Sixers will need Embiid and Simmons to contribute a lot more to the series finale than they did in Game 6. In the playoffs, however, even heavier teams need unlikely heroes to deliver this. “big boost.”

Friday night, Curry and Maxey put on the capes.

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