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Sixers-Hawks takeaways: Tyrese Maxey overthinks new role, team grows frustrated

The Sixers had a chance to draw even on their season record, but they couldn't overcome the Hawks.

Philadelphia 76ers' Tyrese Maxey drives against Atlanta Hawks' De'Andre Hunter during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)
Philadelphia 76ers' Tyrese Maxey drives against Atlanta Hawks' De'Andre Hunter during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)Read moreHakim Wright Sr. / AP

ATLANTA — Tyrese Maxey needs to stop overthinking. The 76ers are showing frustration. And they’re just not a good team right now.

Below is my look at three things that stood out during the Sixers’ 104-95 loss to the Atlanta Hawks Thursday night at State Farm Arena.

Maxey hasn’t been close to his electrifying self since James Harden has been sidelined with right foot tendon strain.

Against the Hawks, Maxey finished with 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting, including going 2 of 6 on three-pointers.

In all, he’s shooting 19-for-64, including 26% on three-pointers, in the three games without Harden.

» READ MORE: Sixers Mailbag: ‘Why is Doc Rivers still the coach of this team?’

This comes after he shot 51.6% from the field, including 46.8% from deep, in the first nine games of the season.

Maxey, admittedly, knows that he needs to stop focusing too much on trying to get calls while driving to the basket. The third-year combination guard also needs to stay aggressive. Joel Embiid actually got on him Thursday for thinking too much in the past two games.

That’s led to his passing up shots that he usually would take and make.

In sum, Maxey has been suffering from a severe case of trying to do too much instead of being himself with Harden sidelined.

“Yeah, that’s some of it,” he said. “I’m trying to help us win. I feel like I’m doing a good job of getting guys involved, getting guys shots. And I have to do a better job when I get to the paint. Teams are so focused on my driving aspects where I can find a lot of shooters, find a lot of dump-offs to a lot of guys. So I have to keep doing that as well.”

But Embiid just wants him to go out and play.

The All-Star center doesn’t mind if Maxey is 0-for-30, he wants his teammate to shoot it.

“I told him, ‘Yeah, without James, we need you to be a point guard,” Embiid said. “But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking for your shot. He has to be aggressive for us to win. He has to be putting the ball up and he has to take shots. Right now, I think he’s thinking too much.

Embiid does care if Maxey has three defenders on him, but otherwise, he wants the standout guard to shoot the ball.

“He needs to get out of the mentality,” Embiid said, “and just be himself.”

Mounting frustration

The Sixers displayed poor body language while being visibly frustrated at times Thursday.

They definitely had a lot to be frustrated about, shooting 38.6%, including going 6 of 30 on three-pointers, and committing 17 turnovers. They had more turnovers than assists (15) against the Hawks.

They also missed around seven layups and numerous wide-open three-pointers.

“I thought with each miss, the frustration, you could literally see it,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It led to no passing and you could literally see it on the defensive end.”

» READ MORE: Do Sixers have better ball movement without James Harden? Doc Rivers isn’t sure.

P.J. Tucker thinks the frustration is part of the game.

“If you ain’t touched it, you ain’t shot it, you’ll be frustrated,” he said. “But it’s frustration to go harder, play harder, not to stop playing and be down. It’s to lift each other up. It’s part of the game.

Embiid, Maxey and Tobias Harris combined for 50 of the Sixers’ 83 shot attempts.

A struggling team

The Sixers were favored to contend for the Eastern Conference title. However, they’re in 11th place in a 15-team conference with a 5-7 record. They’re a ways away from showing the consistency needed to be a contender.

Thursday’s loss denied them in their bid to win consecutive games for the second time this season. At this moment, the Sixers are a long way from being a team that has the talent to go deep in the playoffs. They can’t make shots or defend. Their rotations are in flux, and the Sixers appear a step too slow.

They looked good in Monday’s victory against the Phoenix Suns. However, Thursday’s setback erased that performance and was more of a reality check.