'Amazing' Maxi's clutch late 3s lift Sixers over Knicks to force Game 6

NEW YORK — After the New York Knicks completed a stunning comeback in Game 2 of an epic first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden last week, Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey vowed to make up for his return. The final moments helped cost his team the game.

On Tuesday night, as Philadelphia's season seemed over, Maxey didn't just make up for it — he did something even more ridiculous.

Thanks to his seven points in the final 28.9 seconds of regulation — back-to-back 3-pointers before he was fouled by Mitchell Robinson for a four-point play — the 76ers erased a six-point lead. Within the final 30 seconds, he secured a 112-106 overtime victory in Game 5, somehow sending the series back to Philadelphia with a 3-2 lead over the Knicks.

“My mind was just trying to survive,” said Maxey, who had 46 points in 52 minutes. “Our season is on the line. I believe in my job. I believe in what I've done my whole life, I've tried to get somewhere.

What made this game so remarkable — in a series full of wild moments and fast swings through five games — was the complete reversal of what happened in Game 2, when the Knicks pulled away from five. Must win in regulation within the final 30 seconds.

Before these playoffs, there had only been three games in the past 25 years in which a team had rallied from at least a five-point deficit in the final 30 seconds to win the game. But after Maxey's heroics Tuesday night, it's now happened twice in the same streak in a 10-day span.

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“It's a tough way to lose a ballgame,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We had a lead. We had to play hard with the lead. We fouled in a situation where we didn't want to foul, and then Maxi hit a big shot.

“So, we have to do better.”

Just as the 76ers had in Game 2, for 47 minutes and 30 seconds, the Knicks appeared to have done more than enough to clinch the series and advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals. New York hasn't won a series in back-to-back playoffs since Game 6 of the 1999 Eastern Conference finals — New York hasn't closed out a series at home in 25 years — since advancing to the Eastern Conference. Finals in 2000.

Sixers coach Nick Nurse called a timeout when Deuce McBride hit a jumper to put New York up 6 with 28.9 seconds left, and the sellout press box was literally rocking for the next three minutes.

“It was tough,” Nurse told ESPN when asked what the mood of the crowd was at the time. “Except I said, 'It's a two-possession game.' We ran a play to get Tyrus a 3 and they ran it.”

Then, the nurse smiled.

“Everything was fine after that, wasn't it?”

One might say that.

However, after all the goings-on in those final 30 seconds — Maxey was fouled by Robinson at the 3 and made a free throw; Josh Hart splits a pair of free throws; Maxi pulls up from inside half court and buries a triple to tie the game; Then Nicholas Badum blocked Jalen Brunson's potential game-winning shot, causing Maxey to roar as both teams went back to their benches — with five minutes of overtime to play.

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Brunson scored all nine points in overtime for New York, finishing with 40 points on 15-of-32 shooting in 51 minutes, matching Maxey and Embiid, who finished with his first playoff triple-double. Not happy with his individual performance, it made three big defensive plays in the final 90 seconds of overtime to close things out.

But on a night when Embiid — who missed shooting due to migraines, was playing through Bell's palsy, a neurological condition that affected the left side of his face and is still on his feet after returning from knee surgery earlier this month — shot 7-of-19 from the field and He had nine turnovers that he had a “terrible” performance, he said excitedly that Maxey could step up and give Philadelphia a win.

“Tonight, obviously based on the circumstances and knowing what was needed, based on what was going on and me not being myself, he had to do it,” said Embiid, who finished with 19 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists. and 4 blocked views. “He did that. That's why he's such an amazing basketball player.”

Both teams will spend the next 48 hours preparing themselves for Game 6 back in South Philly on Thursday night.

After Philadelphia bounced back from its demoralizing loss in Game 2 with Embiid going for 50 in Game 3, both teams knew Philadelphia outscored New York by two points in a series, five games into the series. It should have another tense, tight coating.

“It sounds cliché, but I'm trying to clean up the game,” Maxey said. “I know what we have to do in 48 hours, we can't change this. We have to look at it as a new game. Our season is back on Thursday.”

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