Sixers Hit by COVID-19 Again, Lose Defensive Stalwart

Philadelphia 76ers Matisse Thybulle

Getty Philadelphia 76ers wing Matisse Thybulle defends the Atlanta Hawks' Cam Reddish.

Against all odds, the Philadelphia 76ers — who still find themselves mired in Ben Simmons drama — currently sit atop the Eastern Conference standings. However, the team’s margin of error is getting thinner by the day as players have been dropping like flies up and down the roster.

Heading into the team’s Nov. 6 bout with the Chicago Bulls, Simmons (personal reasons) and two-way player Grant Riller (knee surgery) continue to sit out, while Danny Green (hamstring) and Furkan Korkmaz (wrist) are both questionable to participate. Meanwhile, the Sixers are currently experiencing big problems on the COVID-19 front.

Over the last few days, Tobias Harris and Isaiah Joe have both entered the league’s health and safety protocols. Now, a third player is joining them due to contact tracing.

Matisse Thybulle Enters COVID-19 Protocols

As relayed by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey, third-year wing and 2021 All-Defensive Team pick Matisse Thybulle is officially the third Sixer to be placed into the league’s health and safety protocols. It’s a development that conjures images of an early-season outbreak in 2020-21, and no one is happy about it.

“We knew it was coming,” coach Doc Rivers said of Thybulle’s situation. “We thought it would come, and we didn’t think it should come, honestly. But it is what it is.”

Pompey noted that Thybulle’s spot in Philly’s locker room is right next to that of Joe. Moreover, the two sat next to each other on the Sixers’ bench during the team’s previous bout with the Bulls on Wednesday. After Joe’s test came back positive, the entire team was tested ahead of its game against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday.

Those test results all came back negative.

In order for Thybulle to return to the lineup, he’ll have to register two negative PCR tests 24 hours apart or spend at least the next 10 days in quarantine.

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Sixers Losing the Numbers Game

On its own, Thybulle’s absence is a bitter pill for the Sixers to swallow. Through nine games this season, the 24-year-old is among the league leaders in steals per game (2.3), blocks per game (1.7) and deflections per 36 minutes (5.5). Moreover, he had started the last two games at power forward in Harris’ absence.

The bigger issue, though, is that the Sixers are losing the numbers game. Given its injuries, COVID-19 issues and G League assignments (Jaden Springer and Aaron Henry are in Delaware), Philly looks to be down to eight players available for the Bulls game, which is the minimum required to actually play.

Meanwhile, Chicago is an opponent that should be able to capitalize on yet another player being out. On Wednesday, the Bulls lost the game, but they still won the rebounding battle and racked up more fast-break and paint points than shorthanded Philly, all by significant margins.


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