The Sixers and their stars are in the midst of a fantastic season. There’s one player, though, who has secretly been a significant factor.
As Doc Rivers stepped to his post-game interview following the team’s victory over the Bulls, there was much talk over Joel Embiid’s monster night. His 50-point performance jumped off the stat sheet.
However, there was one guy whose performance spoke much louder than the box score indicated. Rivers said that Matisse Thybulle was the team’s “the secret sauce,” helping to lead them to victory.
In the 37 minutes of play that Matisse Thybulle was given in the Bulls’ victory, he tallied 2 points, 2 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks, and one steal. Due to the late scratch of Ben Simmons, Thybulle stepped into the starting lineup and did his best to make life miserable for Zach LaVine.
LaVine only scored 10 of his 30 points with Thybulle guarding him, and he was held to 2-12 shooting when this was the matchup. LaVine shot 9-28 from the field throughout the night and 2-10 from behind the arc. Due to Simmons’ absence, this was the largest amount of time that Matisse has spent on an individual matchup all year.
Matisse Thybulle is one of four players with at least 40 steals and 20 blocks this season. The other players to do this are Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, and Andre Drummond.
Perhaps most impressive is that Thybulle has accomplished this in 261 fewer game minutes than anyone else on this list. His ability to immediately impact the game defensively is extremely rare and incredibly valuable to this Sixers team.
The University of Washington product has also opened up the Sixers’ ability to transition into a zone defense. With Simmons and Thybulle at the top of the 2-3 zone, the Sixers’ defense is a nightmare for any opposing guard to get up the court.
This was first seen in a matchup with the Indiana Pacers in which the Sixers were without Joel Embiid. Trailing by 10 with 6 minutes and 38 seconds remaining, Doc Rivers reached into his bag of tricks and put the Sixers in this zone defense.
Thybulle tallied 4 steals and 2 blocks in the 25 minutes of play he received in this matchup. The 2nd-year-player sparked the Sixers’ comeback, and they ended up producing a 119-110 victory against the Pacers.
While he may have seemed out of the rotation earlier on in the season, Matisse Thybulle has established himself as a crucial part of the team. He plays an extremely unique role as almost purely a defensive stopper. When traditionally thinking of a player that is a spark off the bench, instant offense is what comes to mind.
This will never be the case with Thybulle; however, his defense has proved to be at such a level that he still provides that necessary spark. This reverse 6th-man role will be one that Doc Rivers may need to lean on throughout the season.
Joel Embiid was not shy in his proclamation that Matisse “has potential to be the best (perimeter) defender in the league.” The defensive depth that the Sixers possess is one area that sets them apart from many of the other contenders around the NBA.
Matisse Thybulle deserves a ton of credit for this and may just be the “secret sauce” that the Sixers need not only now but going forward.