We know what Matisse Thybulle can do for the Sixers on the defensive end. What the team would like to see—and star big man Joel Embiid especially—is Thybulle become a more consistent contributor on the offensive end.
On Friday in the Sixers’ win over the Spurs, Thybulle was 5-for-5 from the field, making the one 3-pointer he tried, for a total of 12 points, his second-highest scoring night this season.
But in a lighthearted postgame press conference, Thybulle got an earful from Embiid about needing to shoot more and, especially, about a decision to pass out of an open look rather than take a dunk attempt, something folks around the Sixers are a bit sensitive about.
“I want him to shoot more 3s,” Embiid said. “He’s always pump-faking, I don’t know why. Just fire it and who cares if you miss it? He’s been great just being in the right spot, and then obviously we use him in the dunker a lot. If teams guard me, and if they’re going to leave him open, that’s an easy pass. He is going to make plays. Although he was wide open down there and he frickin’ passed the ball to the 3, I didn’t understand it.”
Thybulle, who was sitting next to Embiid, said sheepishly, “I said I was sorry.”
Embiid shook his head. “I was mad,” he said. “I can’t believe it. But he’s been great, like tonight, he just made my job easy.”
Thybulle Had ‘Confusing’ Stint on COVID-19 List
Thybulle was returning to the lineup as a starter for the first time in two games, when he had what he called a, “confusing” time away from the team in the league’s health and safety protocols.
Thybulle said he did not have any symptoms and had mostly returned tests that were negative or inconclusive. But there was a positive test, and that forced him out for the two games. Thybulle had missed seven games in November with COVID-19.
“It’s very frustrating,” Thybulle said. “Especially because, just the rule changes come and go like a whim, it feels like. It gets confusing as a recently recovered player to get tested so soon, and then the concern would be false positive tests.”
But now that Thybulle is back, the team can continue working him into the role it sees for him, having him create space when Embiid draws double teams. That, he said, is what Sixers coaches have beenw working with him on.
“I think it has just become a little bit more of a point of emphasis for me to read the double-team and be the outlet,” Thybulle said. “Tonight, I got a lot of those passes but other nights it does not show up in my stat line, but it is drawing over help defenders and he is able to make skip passes and other things like that. It just opens up a lot of things on the floor.”
Ball Movement Key to Sixers’ Winning Streak
The Sixers have won six straight in large part, according to Embiid, because of their ball movement. They’ve been able to do so despite fluctuations in the team’s lineups, as both Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey have been sidelined because of the team’s health and safety protocols.
Over the last six games, the Sixers have averaged 118.2 points and 26.2 assists, well above their season averages of 107.4 points and 22.9 assists.
“The game is becoming easy because we’re moving the ball, we’re playing with each other, the ball is not sticking,” Embiid said. “Whatever play is called, we have first option, second option, third option. We’re just playing together. Defensively, I thought we’ve been better, at times we have bad times, but as a whole we have been better. Offensively, we have been on a roll, like I said, I think as a result of sharing the ball playing with each other, trusting each other and making plays.”