Matisse Thybulle has been a defensive anchor for the Sixers during the playoffs. He’ll have to keep up that impressive streak against Atlanta.
There were a ton of positives to take away from the Sixers’ first-round victory over the Wizards. Advancing following a near sweep of the inferior Wizards, Philly looked fluid on both sides of the ball, even without Joel Embiid, highlighting the depth and talent the team boasts.
People will remember the first-round series for the unfortunate injury to Embiid and the elevated play of Tobias Harris, but the efforts of Matisse Thybulle served as a huge catalyst to the Sixers’ success against Washington and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Per usual, Thybulle was dispensed in limited minutes and aimed to make an impact on the defensive end. Heading into the series, many wondered how effective he would be at slowing down the dynamic backcourt of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook.
Beal, 27, was nothing short of spectacular in the regular season. The Saint Louis native and 3x All-Star led the Eastern Conference in points per contest with 31.3, proving to be one of the tougher defensive assignments around the league.
If the Sixers were going to put the Wizards away, they knew it would start with containing Bradley Beal.
“He’s actually one of the best scorers in the world,” said Thybulle. “A really high-level player, really, high-level competitor. His willingness to take on the challenge of scoring on me, Ben, Danny Green, Joel Embiid, he embraces these challenges.”
Beal certainly took the challenge of exploiting the Sixers defense in stride. Through five games, the crafty combo guard averaged 30 a night on 45% shooting against Philly. He was meticulous at finding his spots, routinely attacking the basket or knocking down contested jumpers.
When matched up against Thybulle, however, Beal was much less efficient. Through five games, Thybulle limited Beal to just 12 points on 48 possessions. Additionally, Thybulle was able to hold the Wizards star to 3/11 shooting when matched up, forcing Beal to turn the ball over six times in the process.
Containing someone as elite as Bradley Beal is impressive for any player, but especially for someone as young as the Sixers sophomore Thybulle. Following the series victory, Thybulle shared that he’s learned a lot from guarding Beal this series.
“[Beal] helped push me to grow and open up areas for me to grow at,” Thybulle said after Game 5. “I mean, I loved the challenge, and I’m pretty sure he did too.”
Thybulle wasn’t just effective against Beal, though. Disrupting the offense like he typically does, Thybulle flew around the court against the Wizards, pressuring ball-handlers each time he was on the court.
The two-time Pac-12 Defensive of the Year collected eight steals and seven blocks through five quarterfinal games(!) while routinely forcing missed jumpers. His defense was simply stellar against Washington, a trend the Sixers need to continue with dynamic guard Trae Young coming to town.
“He’s a dynamic score and passer,” Thybulle said, looking ahead to the matchup with Young. “I think he draws a lot of attention off the pick-and-roll, his ability to stretch the court with his 3, with his range. I think we definitely match up well these guys.”
Just as he did in round one, Thybulle will have his hands full with an all-star guard capable of single-handedly changing the game. Hopefully, this matchup inspires a similar result to the former.