It wasn't a bad first career start for Philadelphia 76ers rookie Tyrese Maxey on Saturday. As Philly had just seven players suited up and available to take the court against the Denver Nuggets, the Sixers' first-round rookie knew he was checking in for a long shift.
By the end of the first half, Maxey appeared on the court for 21 minutes, higher than his usual average. At that point, Maxey led the Sixers in scoring as he had 22 points off of 19 shots. Considering he was obviously the most reliable scorer for Philly on Saturday, a big second-half performance was expected.
In the next 22 minutes of action, Maxey nearly went for 40 points in his first NBA start. Maxey hit an impressive pull-up three-point shot during the final minute of the game, which put him at 39 total points for the afternoon.
16 seconds later, Maxey collected a rebound, which gave the Sixers one more offensive possession late in the game. While Philly had zero chance of winning the game at that point, Maxey did have an opportunity to drain over 40 points to become the first rookie in Sixers history to knock down over 40 in a single game. And Sixers head coach Doc Rivers encouraged his rookie to make it happen.
"I called that last play for him," Rivers explained after the game. "He became a point guard and made a pass, and I told him, 'Bro, you got 39, you at least gotta throw it up to the rim on that one.' And he was joking; he said 'You might've yelled at me for forcing it.'" While Maxey did attempt a driving layup with 14 seconds left to try and collect his 41st point of the evening, the shot was no good.
After just failing to surpass Sixers legend Allen Iverson in the franchise history books, Maxey was far from disappointed. "I just wanted to win," the rookie said after the game. "Of course, 39 is great; it was cool. But I'm really looking forward to the next game. [I'm] trying to grieve for the next 24 hours about this one and then try to get a win in Atlanta."
While the results of Saturday's game wasn't exactly what Rivers or Maxey wanted, the Sixers are looking forward to moving onto the next matchup against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_