Surprised starter Matisse Thybulle proud he's not a 'one-trick pony'

Surprised starter Matisse Thybulle proud he's not a 'one-trick pony'

As a basketball player, Matisse Thybulle is best known for one thing — he’s endorsed the nickname “Mathief,” after all.

On Wednesday night, he added to his rookie lead in steals with two and blocked four shots in the Sixers’ 117-106 win over the Nets (see observations). He chased Brooklyn sharpshooter Joe Harris around screens and stuck with — and also blocked — Nets star Kyrie Irving, a notoriously dextrous ball handler.

Thybulle has no preference for the type of player he matches up against. He prefers being able to handle whoever he's asked to defend.

“I wouldn’t say so. Each is like a different challenge,” he told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Guarding Kyrie is nothing like guarding a Joe Harris. They’re both hard covers. For me it’s just being able to step up to the plate. It’s exciting to be versatile, not just like a one-trick pony — being able to guard multiple positions, multiple types of players. I like to take pride in doing that.”

Brett Brown had, before the game, explained his decision not to play James Ennis at all Monday against the Pacers by saying he was determined to “try to grow Matisse more.” Ennis played 15 minutes vs. the Nets, but Brown followed through on his pregame statement about Thybulle by starting the rookie for the fourth time in the regular season, and the first time since Nov. 29.

Thybulle was not expecting it.

“I didn’t know I was starting until maybe a couple minutes before the game, hour before the game,” he said with a smile. 

Wednesday’s game was Thybulle’s fourth back after a seven-game absence because of a right knee sprain and bone bruise. He talked on the day before his return about learning through a different perspective on the sidelines. Now, he seems to have a greater clarity on how he wants to approach the game.

“I think one of the things was just watching people make mistakes that I was making," he said. "It’s one thing to do it yourself, it’s another thing to watch somebody do it and see how it’s wrong, why it’s wrong and how you can correct it. I think for me a lot of it is off the ball, try not to foul and staying down on pump fakes. Being OK with a late contest and making the shot difficult as opposed to having the mentality that I need to block everything."

One area where Thybulle still seems a bit perplexed is the subtle manipulation of the referees that’s prevalent across the NBA. He did earn one offensive foul call Wednesday when he was crushed by a Jarrett Allen screen in pursuit of Harris and fell to the floor, but he was adamant that it wasn’t because he’s getting better at selling calls.

“No,” he said. “If you watched it, I got hit really hard on that play. I didn’t want to fall down — that wasn’t a choice. And I had five fouls today.”

In Brown’s opinion, not all of those fouls were the correct calls.

You want to polish him up, not wind him up, and he doesn't need to be wound up,” Brown said. “He's a ball of energy. ... I thought he did a pretty good job for the most part of stalking and had some that weren't fouls. He still hit people as they will rising up into a shot. But we saw after he played seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 games, we saw the progressive growth and his judgment and not leaving like Joe Harris in a corner and trying to make a play off the ball, as an example.

"And I think that his length and his bounce, I want to try to just polish that up and encourage him to make plays. And he did tonight. We just got to make sure that it's done not at the expense of whacking people and sending them to the line.

Offensively, Thybulle’s primary skill, as he knew entering the season, is the three-point shot. Though his percentage has fallen a bit after only hitting 2 of 12 threes since coming back, he’s still at 41.8 percent. He’s also been good about not venturing past the simple play lately and has three turnovers in his last 93 minutes. 

Twenty-eight minutes Monday night and 27 Wednesday didn’t look beyond his capacity. Does he expect he’ll have an extended run as a starter?

“Don’t know, don’t really care,” he said. “It’s really just about doing my job when I get out there. You see across the board, we have guys like Trey [Burke], Raul [Neto] that don’t know if they’re going to play but when they come in they make a huge impact on the game. Obviously I know a little bit more about what my minutes are going to look like but it’s still the same mentality across the board. It’s what you do with your opportunity, and everybody wants to be able to go out there and help us win.”

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Matisse Thybulle is a much better defender in real life than in NBA2K


Matisse Thybulle is a much better defender in real life than in NBA2K

Matisse Thybulle is known for his defense in real life. In NBA2K, that is definitely not the case.

With the NBA season suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak, Thybulle and the Suns’ Mikal Bridges played each other in 2K on Friday night and streamed the action on Twitch.

Though Thybulle gave Bridges a little bit of a scare with a big third quarter, the virtual Suns beat the virtual Sixers, 75-64. 

While the intensity obviously didn’t compare to a typical game night at Wells Fargo Center, both Thybulle and Bridges — a Villanova product and a Sixer for about 20 minutes before a draft-night trade two years ago — were very into it.

Thyulle decided to sub himself into the game after just 28 seconds, and Bridges did the same 30 seconds later. 

“Which one’s shoot again?,” he asked. “Square?” 

As his team fell behind, Thybulle had some stern words for his players.

“Al, you’re better than that,” he said when Al Horford bit on a pump fake. “You’ve been in the league too long to be making those mistakes.” 

When Ben Simmons had a floater blocked, Thybulle wasn’t thrilled. 

“Ben, you’re 7-foot,” he said. “Just dunk it.” 

And a Mike Scott lay-up early in the third wasn’t what Thybulle was hoping to see. 

At one point, he tried begging for mercy from Bridges.

“Stop running pick-and-roll, I don’t know how to guard it,” he said. “Please. Come on, man.” 

Unfortunately for Thybulle, Bridges did not stop and the rookie left with a loss, albeit an entertaining one.

“I apologize to the Sixers, to my family, my friends, the people of Philadelphia,” he said. “This is not acceptable.” 

After personally finishing with no points on 0 for 3 shooting, Thybulle promised he'll be practicing.

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Josh Richardson bests Devin Booker in Sixers' NBA2K simulation win over Suns

Josh Richardson bests Devin Booker in Sixers' NBA2K simulation win over Suns

Even in a video game, the Sixers’ dominance at home continues.

Thanks to some stifling fourth-quarter defense, the Sixers took down the Suns, 76-62, in a simulation on NBA2K Friday.

Led by Josh Richardson and Al Horford, the Sixers went on a 13-4 run in the final period to seal the victory.

Here are observations from the virtual win:

J-Rich outduels Booker

Richardson was given the defensive assignment of trying to contain the high-scoring Devin Booker. Booker, who hung 40 on the Sixers in a real-life game in Phoenix back in November, got off to a hot start.

But so did Richardson.

The difference was the fourth quarter where Booker appeared to be laboring … at least that’s what the little Gatorade cup that popped up next to him would indicate.

It was Richardson’s strip on a Booker drive and lay in on the other end that sparked the Sixers’ fourth quarter run and helped put the game out of reach.

While Booker posted a game-high 27, he wasn’t very efficient, going 10 of 24 from the field. Richardson, on the other hand, had a team-high 22 points on 8 of 12 from the field and 3 of 3 from three. He also added four assists and two steals.

Embiid quiet offensively

If the Sixers deployed the offensive strategy in real life that they did in this sim, Brett Brown would have a lot of explaining to do.

The Sixers never really looked for Joel Embiid in the post until late in the game, where the All-Star center provided two big buckets. He only scored 10 points, but pulled in 15 rebounds and challenged a ton of shots at the rim.

Embiid’s speed rating must be like a 10 because he had trouble getting back on defense all night. There was also a moment where 2K color analyst Greg Anthony compared Phoenix’s DeAndre Ayton to Embiid … which certainly is a take.

Horford and Harris solid

Al Horford pounded the Suns’ bigs early, make 4 of his 5 shots from the field. He cooled off a little in the third, but buried a hook shot over former teammate Aron Baynes to extend the Sixers’ lead to seven before the period ended.

It was on the defensive end down the stretch where Horford shined in this one. He came up with a big steal and rumbled down the other end for a layup to give the Sixers’ their first double-digit lead. A couple possessions later he came up with a big block on Ayton which led to an Embiid bucket on the other end to put the Sixers up 12. Horford finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

Harris scuffled early and wasn’t really aggressive and looking to score. In the second half, he started cutting to the basket and looking for shots around the rim. He ended up with 16 points on 6 of 11. He also came up with two on-ball blocks after being switched onto Booker.

Sorry, Dario

Former Sixer and fan favorite Dario Saric had a tough night dealing with his former mates. Going up against the likes of Embiid and Horford, Saric scored just two points in 17 minutes.

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