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76ers ‘real with each other’ after examining Game 3 loss

CAMDEN, N.J. — Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey said he was pleased that Saturday’s film session after a disappointing Game 3 loss in their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Boston Celtics was filled with frank and honest discussion among himself and his teammates.

“I think the biggest thing was today that we were real with each other, and that’s good,” Maxey said. “Family has to be real with each other. Family has to express themselves. They have to express the emotions that they’re feeling and you have to get that off your chest.

“And I think we’ve done a great job of that all year.”

There were plenty of emotions to get out from Game 3’s disappointing loss — one that saw Maxey and James Harden combine to go 7-for-30 from the field, including 2-for-14 from 3-point range.

As a result, Maxey spent a solid hour shooting while the media was in the gym Saturday, including some work inside shooting over defenders, in an effort to get back his touch after he said he lost it at times in Game 3.

“Yeah, just trying to stimulate some of that and also just find my touch back,” said Maxey, who went 4-for-16 in Game 3. “I feel like I lost it in the last game and that’s really what I was trying to do today. Just find my touch back, find my rhythm back.

“[Sixers coach Doc Rivers] was on me. He said he felt like I started the third quarter with confidence, and then he said he felt like after I missed a shot or two, then my confidence stopped, and I stopped being aggressive and then started trying to press the issue.

“I just got to be confident throughout the entire game, and keep being aggressive.”

Rivers had a similar critique for Harden, who went 3-for-14 in Game 3 after going 2-for-14 in Game 3. It’s his worst shooting performance in two consecutive games across his entire NBA career, including both the regular season and playoffs.

That this dip came in the wake of Harden’s greatest-ever playoff game — his 45-point explosion to lead Philadelphia to a Game 1 victory without the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, Joel Embiid — made it even more jarring.

Still, while Rivers said he thought Harden was generally making the right play in Game 3, he said the 76ers need to, as a group, play with more force in terms of attacking the basket as the series moves forward.

“I just thought we didn’t play with enough thrust,” Rivers said. “We didn’t get in the paint enough, and we can do that. I really did. They are helping on everybody’s drives, so they are bringing people, so James has to make the right decision. And, overall, I think he is. There was one where I’m sure people thought he could have shot the ball, but he was going to his right … but, to me, him being a passer isn’t a bad thing for us.”

Overall, though, Rivers said the message to his group was that no matter how the first three games had played out, the closest a best-of-7 series can possibly be after three games is the 2-to-1 margin that it stands at now, noting that whether Philadelphia had won a game in Boston or at home doesn’t change that.

And, he said, the Sixers now get a chance to even this series up with a victory in Game 4 at home. Maxey said that message, in particular, resonated with him Saturday.

“Our backs against the wall,” Maxey said. “We’re going to go out there and compete extremely hard. I know every guy on this team, we’ve done it all year. We’ve been determined. When people [doubt us], we go out there and we prove them wrong.”

Rivers echoed those sentiments, saying that the ups and downs and swings back and forth in terms of emotions across a series is something teams simply have to navigate if they want to be successful.

“This is part of going through a playoff grind. It’s emotional terrorism at times, and you have to deal with it. You have to be able to handle it. Or, you lose. And, I said, that’s part of it. You have to able to deal with it and handle it. I thought, after watching the film, we were in a much better place than before.”

This story originally appeared on ESPN

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