It’s not often a rookie can come in and wreck an entire game for an opponent on the defensive end of the floor.
Through the first five games of the season, it seemed like Matisse Thybulle was going to make that kind of impact on a nightly basis.
Then Thybulle started to look like a rookie, which coincided with Furkan Korkmaz’s torrid shooting streak. In the 11 games after Korkmaz hit his game-winner in Portland, Thybulle averaged just 11 minutes a game.
But the 22-year-old never got down. He was prepared for his next opportunity which came in the Sixers’ 97-91 win over the Kings Wednesday night (see observations).
“I mean, you stay ready,” Thybulle said. “It's not a matter of just getting ready and not being ready. You just got to be ready for every opportunity because being a rookie you don't know what's going to be coming your way and you've got to be able to step up when it's your time when they call your name.”
With Josh Richardson missing the second half with right hamstring tightness, Brett Brown turned to Korkmaz after halftime. Korkmaz struggled defensively so Brown went to Thybulle to see if the rook could provide a spark.
And that he did.
In the third quarter alone, Thybulle hit two threes and had two steals and a block. He added one more of each in the fourth. In all, he had 15 points, was 3 of 3 from three and recorded four steals and two blocks.
"I think that he’s growing as a reliable defensive player," Brown said.“When you go into that team and you’re looking at all those shooters, and Matisse is still learning how to be a disciplined defensive player. ... Increasingly, you’ve gotta have that knowledge in the NBA of who’s on the court and the confidence of the coach to follow a game plan. I’m seeing slowly him understand — when he sort of irritates my tolerance level, it’s always a defensive wild card. I think he’s getting better.”
When Thybulle gets into games, the expectation is he’ll wreak havoc and get his hands on the basketball an awful lot. Hitting three threes is certainly the more pleasantly surprising part to the evening.
But Thybulle shot the ball decently in college. His form looks like it will translate at this level. After his 3-for-3 performance Wednesday, Thybulle is now up to 38.7 percent (12 of 31) for the young season.
As we’ve seen with Brown in the past with players like Korkmaz, if you can hit open shots, you’re going to see the floor.
“He looked like his shoulders were over his waist, his waist was over his feet, he had proper footwork into his shot,” Brown said. “And it looked good. It really looked balanced.
“Then he was getting deflections and steals and I’m sure felt good about his defense that you’d think carried over to the confidence in his shot. But I thought fundamentally, judging it, he looked proper. He looked fundamentally correct and balanced. And he made them. And we needed every one of them.”
Even if Thybulle shoots the ball well, his biggest impact will likely still be on the defensive end of the floor. His 25 steals are tied for first among rookies. The Knicks’ R.J. Barrett, who’s played 310 more minutes than Thybulle, also has 25.
Thybulle has talked about the “fine line” that Brown has allowed him to walk throughout his rookie campaign. It’s the line between making impactful splash plays on defense and committing cheap fouls or leaving elite shooters open.
Wednesday’s game is a perfect example of what Thybulle can be when he toes that line just right.
I'm constantly working on it,” Thybulle said. “I think this was one of my better games in terms of finding that balance but I mean, like Jo says, guys guard differently every game, guys play different every game, so it's hard to know what to expect. A lot of these games it's my first time playing these teams and these players and just trying to get out there and get a feel and at the same time, just staying solid. I think that's one of coach's biggest things with me, is just not taking too much risk. And I think today was a good one for me just to see what I was able to get done without making any crazy decisions.
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