Following Tyrese Maxey's 51-point effort to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a win without Joel Embiid, things have been much more difficult for him and his squad. The Sixers have dropped two straight games at home, both of them concluding with several garbage-time minutes.

The 76ers facing numerous key injuries at a time can partly explain why the Brooklyn Nets, owners of a losing record, and the Dallas Mavericks, who hover above the .500 mark by just a handful of games, gave them so much trouble. Maxey was unable to go Super Saiyan again and save his team, though he wasn’t put in the best positions to do so. The predominant reason why is that the opposing defenses treated him like a superstar, blitzing him at the top of the key and taking away his opportunities to drive.

The key to beating a blitzing defense is to get the ball out of the hands of the star player. If a defense throws multiple bodies at a star before they even get a chance to attack in the halfcourt, a team should play into their game and let the rest of the guys figure out who's open and where the best shot attempt is.

As Nick Nurse explained recently, someone is going to be open when that happens. It's simply up to the guys on the floor to find them. The last two games showed that, even though Nurse claimed it's something they have been working on, the 76ers have a lot of improvements to make.

Most of the possessions against blitzes look something like the play below. With the Mavericks comfortably placing two defenders on Maxey to stall his progress, the Sixers do nothing. Paul Reed, whose man is up top with Maxey, wanders aimlessly into the paint while Marcus Morris Sr. floats into space at an angle Maxey cannot cleanly pass to. The closest thing to an outlet Maxey has is Jaden Springer standing in the corner, defended by his man with a ticking shot clock. Despite the size mismatch Reed has, a post-up for him is not an optimal way to end a possession.

The Mavs didn’t blitz Maxey all the time and they didn’t always try to rush him into a trap. Throughout the game, they did keep their bigs (or whoever was guarding the screener for Maxey) up by the level of the screen to keep him out of the paint.

The Nets also started the game with their off-ball defenders coming up to the level of the screen, switching them onto Maxey on pick-and-rolls. But they started blitzing him often as the game went on – and the Sixers let them get away with it. Once Maxey faced pressure, their chances at scoring were extinguished.

Here, with Maxey facing two defenders near the halfcourt logo, Reed at least goes somewhere where Maxey can pass it to him. But attacking off the dribble is not a strength of the big man. He takes his time to load up a move and it allows Spencer Dinwiddie to get to the backside of the play and take one of the two players that Lonnie Walker IV is accounting for. A four-on-three became a four-on-four because the 76ers didn’t have a speck of urgency.

The Nets threw two bodies at Maxey again to start the third quarter and he did a much better job of getting the ball out quickly, though it still goes to Reed. The other Sixers on the court all crash into the paint, taking away any room Reed would have had to attack the smaller Dinwiddie. Miscommunication from the Nets allows Oubre to get a wide-open look from deep but the failure to create a quick shot after the initial double-team would come back to bite Philly.

Maxey's limitations as a passer also played a part in the 76ers' inability to get open looks. He acknowledged that he needs to do a better job of ditching the rock after the loss to Dallas. The tape against Brooklyn gave him plenty of moments to reflect on.

On one third-quarter possession, Maxey instinctually retreats from the blitz and ends up lofting a pass to Oubre. That bounce pass between two defenders — especially those with long limbs like Mikal Bridges and Nic Claxton — is not easy but it's what a lead guard has to do. Reed could have gotten the ball at the elbow, where he's comfortable shooting from and where the Nets would likely send immediate help. Cam Johnson looks like he's on his way there, taking a step before he realizes the pass isn’t coming his way.

The shot that comes out of this play is okay. But shots generated out of double-teams have to be better than just okay, especially when Embiid isn’t there to help.

The Nets made a bet that no one on the 76ers could beat them besides Maxey. They were absolutely correct. While that game plan was easy to deploy against Philly's best guard and lone healthy starter, it exposed how discombobulated its offense really is. There was no audible, no backup plan for Maxey being taken out of the play. Coupled with some poor defense from the Sixers, it allowed the Nets to cruise to an easy win.

The Sixers can get a great sense of what to do against blitzes by watching the Mavs. Luka Doncic was a spectator during many of the sequences that let Dallas run away with the game in the fourth quarter but the other guys on the court worked in perfect harmony to orchestrate open shots.

When Doncic checked back into the game in the fourth quarter, he spammed passes to the short roll after drawing two defenders. He knew immediately that the Sixers were taking themselves out of position to guard his teammates. He didn’t record a single assist in the fourth quarter but his playmaking made the pivotal difference.

Maxi Kleber looked for the pass immediately after setting the screen and Doncic threaded the needle. In a hurry, Kleber turned to Grant Williams, whose defender had to slide down to contain him. All alone with two guys to account for, Maxey stunts the contest and tries to bait Williams into making another pass. He does not oblige and instead buries the triple.

Williams displayed a sound sense of how to move the ball out of the short roll, too. It looked peculiar when he didn’t take the wide-open shot from the elbow when no one was in his vicinity on a play at the end of the third quarter. However, instead of taking a shot he rarely shoots, he drew in both defenders and swung the ball back out. Another quick pass gave Kleber a corner three with the nearest defender still exiting the paint.

The result is a miss but the process of the play was pristine. Williams passed up a good look for a great one that showed even more of the Sixers' inability to contain the ball movement.

The karmic basketball forces gave Jaden Hardy a friendly bounce on a shot later in the game to counteract Kleber's miss. In this play, Doncic waited patiently for the trap to come before making his move. As soon as Patrick Beverley changed course to re-double him after pretending to follow the roll, he flicked the ball with his left to Kleber. With his head straight up and the ball held high, Kleber whipped the pass to Hardy.

The Sixers mixed it up with a 1-3-1 zone but it didn’t confuse the Mavs. Doncic draws two, Josh Green moves from the corner to the middle of the paint, Maxey has to step down from the wing to watch for the lob, Green feeds Williams in the corner and Dallas adds two more points to its onslaught. Maxey does a good job running Williams off the arc but no one is there to step back up.

The Mavs outscored the Sixers 41-28 in the fourth quarter, making mincemeat of its woeful attempts to blitz Doncic. On the other side, Philadelphia struggled against the blitz. Hmm, is anyone else getting deja vu?

One way the Sixers were able to beat the blitz was with a Spain pick-and-roll. Mo Bamba's screen on Maxey's defender didn’t do much to free him up but Patrick Beverley screening Bamba's defender and then relocating sowed chaos among Dallas' defense, as Maxey attacked a paint devoid of any big men and got the shot to fall through a foul.

The 76ers should start by setting more screens for Maxey with guys like Tobias Harris, Oubre and even Beverley — guys who can put the ball on the floor quickly and ignite the four-on-three advantage by forcing a rotation. Nico Batum's brilliant playmaking and ability to shoot will make him a clean fit for that role once he returns. If it's Reed screening, it should be a screen that gets him to roll right to the nail.

Philly could also go to more open-floor sets where Maxey takes his man one-on-one. But east-west, herky-jerky dribble moves are not yet Maxey's forte. He's at his best when he's attacking north-south at high speeds, blowing by his defender on the way to the rim or creating space for a step-back triple rather than trying to shake them and pull up from the mid-range. Trying to switch an inferior defender onto him in a screen might just invite a blitz anyway.

Embiid will be out for at least four weeks after a successful procedure. In that time, the 76ers have to figure out a way to win games with Maxey leading the show. The trade deadline could provide some new faces to help out. Regardless of who it is, Philly has to sharpen its offense in order to avoid this season getting sacked.