The Philadelphia 76ers have struggled more often than not as of late. After their star center Joel Embiid went out nearly two weeks ago after testing positive for COVID-19, the 8-2 Sixers started losing at a higher rate.
Heading into Saturday night's game against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Sixers had just one win during a six-game stretch without Embiid. After falling short to the Blazers on the road, the Sixers picked up their sixth loss in seven games.
Overall, the SIxers have been difficult to watch -- but their second-year guard Tyrese Maxey has certainly been a bright spot. As the former Kentucky product won over the starting point guard job by default as Ben Simmons held out from the Sixers, the team had no choice but to throw the young guard into the fire.
Not only has Maxey survived -- he's been absolutely thriving and is proving to be a legitimate starter in the NBA. During Philly's tough stretch, Maxey has averaged 37 minutes on the court. During that time, he is averaging just under 25 points while hitting on 49-percent of his threes. He's also accounted for 4.6 assists per game while turning the ball over less than one time per game.
While Maxey certainly isn't the same defensive stud as Simmons, he's held his own on that side of the ball as well. 76ers head coach Doc Rivers wasn't particularly thrilled with Maxey's defensive performance against Portland's Damian Lillard on Saturday night, but the Sixers head coach still had tons of praise for his young guard as he continues to thrive in the spotlight.
"His focus keeps growing," Rivers said on Saturday night after the Sixers fell short to the Blazers. "His voice keeps getting louder. I'm just proud of how he's approaching games. I didn't think he had his best defensive night tonight. I thought he was into Lillard's body in the first game, and I thought tonight he gave him too much room. You just can't give him room. You can't because then you get picked, and you're off, and you're behind. Other than that, I thought he was fantastic."
There were points during Saturday night's game where it seemed the Sixers were down and out. Then, Tyrese Maxey gave them life. In 35 minutes, he helped lead the 76ers in scoring with 28 points. He was a perfect 9-9 from the charity stripe and distributed the ball well by collecting nine assists. Also, he took care of the rock as he didn't commit a single turnover during the night.
Maxey's far from a finished product, but the second-year guard has shown tons of development as a full-time starter through his first 17 games. Knowing he will likely only get better is a positive sign for Doc Rivers and the Sixers.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.