The Matisse Thybulle Breakout Game – Observations from Sixers 97, Kings 91

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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How annoyed was Joel Embiid with Monday night’s scoreless performance?

Annoyed enough to back down Richaun Holmes on the very first possession Wednesday night and throw down an emphatic dunk in his face. It set the tone early before the Sixers slogged their way to a one-point halftime lead after a lethargic second quarter.

Then Matisse Thybulle came in and had his best run of the year, ripping off a handful of steals, two three pointers, and a transition dunk that pulled the Sixers out of their sloppy pre-Thanksgiving motions and brought some ‘jam’ into the building, as Peter Laviolette used to say.

Energy Injection

It was a big spot for the rookie, with Josh Richardson coming out of the game due to hamstring tightness while the rest of the bench scored a combined four points. To Thybulle’s credit, he did his two-way work while remaining under control and avoiding the sometimes overzealous play that had been biting him in the butt through the early part of his NBA career. Outside of one bad turnover, his third quarter was mostly flawless, and he finished 5-5 for 15 points with four steals and two blocked shots.

Take your pick of plays from the game, but I liked this one the best, the blocked Buddy Hield three-point shot and run out for the tasty dunk:

He showed flashes like that in the preseason, where he was able to slide and recover on step back attempts. It’s very difficult to keep your feet there, then switch stance to contest with the opposite hand instead. That’s instinct more than anything that can be taught.

“You’ve just got to be ready for any opportunity,” Thybulle said after the game. “Being a rookie, you don’t know what’s going to be coming your way. You’ve got to be able to step up when it’s your time and they call your name.

Step up he did, and probably the most impressive thing was that we saw a balance between aggression and control that had been evading Thybulle in his early transition to pro basketball.

On that:

“I’m constantly working on it. I think this was one of my better games in terms of finding that balance. But like Joel says, guys guard differently every game and guys play differently 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, you just try to get out there and get a feel while 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. I think today was a good one for me to see what I could get done without any crazy decisions.”

Yep, well said. He’s got a nice ceiling as a legitimate 3 and D NBA player and he played a tremendous role in helping the Sixers improve to 8-0 at home and 12-6 on the season.

Doubled up

Hit or miss on double teams Wednesday night for the Sixers, not all of which involved Joel Embiid. He finished with 33 and 16 while adding one assist.

I cut a reel of three plays that stood out to me from this game, two where Embiid was on the floor and one where he was not:

Play #1:

There’s a pivot and play to the near side there, where Richardson can get a shot up. There were only eight seconds on the shot clock with that inbound taking place on the baseline, but Joel hesitated and threw a pass into the crowd.

Play #2: 

Brett Brown ran onto the court to call timeout, because the spacing got totally screwed up. Thybulle vacated the near side and there was no rotation to bail out Horford, who couldn’t try anything cross-court into a crowd of bodies.

Play #3: 

Blown Sacramento defense but really nice early read from Joel to find Thybulle there. He gave him a pat on the head after he was unable to finish the dunk, but drew the foul instead.

Embiid had another one right before that play where he picked out Furkan Korkmaz cross-court, who then found a teammate in the corner for a wide open three, which was missed.

But the problems are two-fold right now. One, Joel has to feel the early double within the first two seconds of the catch, as he did in that final clip. Two, the Sixers typically very slowly vacate the near side and don’t show enough urgency flashing back to that side when the skip pass isn’t there. Put that on the list of questions to ask Brett Brown at the next practice session.

Ben Simmons, fadeaway jump shooter

Ben Simmons tried two of his turnaround fadeaways in this game, which he shot on consecutive field goal attempts.

Here they are, for your viewing pleasure:

First one looked very pretty and gave him the confidence to try another one right away, which is honestly what we’re looking for here. You want to see him string a few of these together, which theoretically opens the door and gets the ball rolling mentally. Up to this point, you just haven’t seen those spurts where he gets the idea to clump these attempts together.

The second shot was a little rough though, kind of hard to see from that angle but he was moving to his right and overcompensated by almost missing the rim entirely to the left side.


It doesn’t matter. Those shots aren’t high-percentage looks but they are shots nonetheless, and you have to crawl before you can learn how to walk, or whatever the saying is. You really want Ben shooting those corner threes and helping in space, but if a couple of junk fadeaways are necessary to get him to back to what we saw the other night, when he drained that shot from 22 feet, then it’s a necessary evil. It’s a means to an end.

Break out the broom

Play had to be stopped in the first quarter because a ball became stuck on the camera equipment behind the north basket. Simmons had to jump with a broom handle to get the thing dislodged:

John Clark was right on the money with that, had his phone out right away. It’s impressive watching him work. He’s immediately thinking of how to turn these things in good social media clips while the rest of us are just laughing and pointing at the basketball.

Other notes

  • Mike Scott was 0-7 and 0-6 from three. He missed badly too, just did not have a good night at all.
  • Furkan Korkmaz continues to struggle out there. Kork went 1-3 in 21 minutes of play.
  • The entire team labored from deep. 5-26 from three comes out to 19.2%.
  • Sacramento out-shot the Sixers 95 to 78 and lost, which is very hard to do. That usually indicates lopsided totals at the charity stripe, and Philly went 20-24 from the line while the Kings went just 4-9.
  • 23 fast break points is a high number for the Sixers, and Thybulle’s 3rd quarter defense was a driving factor in that.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving! Hope it’s a good one.


4 Responses

  1. Cuz’s Corner was great last night. He got Detroit and Buffalo on the money lines ! Loved what he said about philly and the holidays and family and food!

    1. That’s awesome. We love family. We love food. We love the holidays. We love 4for4. We all love the Cuz!

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