Sixers Defensive Ace Hints at Team’s Tendency to Overlook Less Talented Teams

Matisse Thybulle, Sixers

Getty Matisse Thybulle #22 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts during the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors during Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round at Wells Fargo Center on April 16, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Philadelphia 76ers are a frustrating team for a variety of reasons. Near the top of this is their lackluster effort which shows face at the most inconvenient of times. This was put on display during their recent matchup with the Golden State Warriors who were without Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins, and Draymond Green. Despite the Warriors being shorthanded, they played with a fire the Sixers did not match and held a lead for the entirety of the first half. Led by Joel Embiid’s 34 points, Philadelphia woke up when it mattered most and managed to secure the 118-106 victory, but not without giving fans a scare.

Following the victory, Matisse Thybulle hinted at the Sixers allowing themselves to come in without a focused effort. As he put it, “The biggest challenge is not playing down to your competition…the biggest mental challenge and when you have the star player out, and a handful of others, you think it’s gonna be easier, but more times than not, it’s harder because now guys who normally don’t get opportunities. Their team dynamic changes and then you sit back thinking it’s gonna be sweet,” per Ky Carlin of SixersWire.

Doc Rivers Agrees?

Sixers’ Head Coach Doc Rivers shared a similar message with Thybulle about the team’s frustrating tendency. He gave credit to the Warriors’ effort level and stated, “They came out and they wanted to prove a lot and they did that,” per Ky Carlin of SixersWire.

Thybulle also offered a solution following his critique. He pointed to two key areas and stated, “Effort’s a big thing and then focus. Like those things don’t really show up as specific events, but when you calibrate them, there’s just this tendency of bad things stop happening.”

While the Sixers still managed to secure the win, this is a tendency that still must be addressed moving forward. They are the more talented team on most nights but that alone is not enough to translate to the win column. This was especially shown near the beginning of the year when they lost games to teams like the Spurs, Knicks, Wizards, and even last week to the Rockets. The air of overconfidence they oftentimes exude will set them up for failure down the line and a bigger issue than any on-court tweak that could be made.

Thybulle’s Recent Play

In one of the more positive storylines of late, Thybulle has managed to work his way back into the lineup. The hype surrounding his reworked jump shot has not translated, although Thybulle has shot four for seven from beyond the three-point arc over the past two games to move his average to 30.3% on the season.

For the most part, he has been the same player but fills a position of need for the Sixers nonetheless. The roster is weak at wing defenders and Thybulle is among the most elite in this category when playing at his best. His tendency to foul and offensive liabilities are notable, but he puts forth eye-popping defensive flashes at times that can change the game. For a stretch during the matchup with the Warriors last night Thybulle completely had Jordan Poole locked up and put an exclamation point on it with an emphatic block.

Rivers himself hinted at Thybulle’s opportunities continuing moving forward as the team looks to experiment with more lineup combinations. As he stated after the game, “I mean, when Tyrese is back there is a lot of lineups we can experiment with and now we’re doing out of necessity and it’s good. We also like that lineup with Matisse [Thybulle] at the 4, if teams want to accommodate us and go small, that’s a good lineup for us,” per Heavy Sports Mike Greger.

Thybulle is one of the more unique players across the entire NBA, but the impact he can make is still clear. If Rivers and the Sixers can continue to maximize his impact while hiding his weaknesses there is an available role for him on this team. Despite some poor eye-test moments on the season, he ranks among the best in the team’s net-positive scoring output with just about every pairing. This includes averaging +10.3 points per 100 possessions alongside Tobias Harris, +11.6 points per 100 possessions alongside James Harden, +17.7 points per 100 possessions alongside Joel Embiid, and +18.3 points per 100 possessions when sharing the court with P.J. Tucker.

The Sixers still have plenty to iron out in their identity as the season progresses. However, Thybulle appears to be well within play for being a part of the rotation forward. Philadelphia has now moved to 16-12 on the season and sits a 5th place in the Eastern Conference. With Tyrese Maxey set to make his return next, the team is heading in the right direction and still has time to reach their peak.

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