First impressions from a 114-106 Sixers win over the Hornets on Sunday . . .
1) It wasn’t long ago that Sixers fans were wondering whether Matisse Thybulle would end up warranting consideration in the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year voting. Now, they’re more likely wondering when he’ll get back on the court. Two nights after he spent all 48 minutes of the Sixers’ loss to the Nuggets on the bench, Thybulle came close to recording his second straight DNP-Coach’s Decision, finally getting into the game with just over two minutes left and the Sixers leading big. With Ben Simmons out of commission with a sprained shoulder, the Sixers have been using both Raul Neto and Trey Burke to fill the void at point guard, leaving Thybulle as the odd man out of Brett Brown’s rotation. The rookie out of Washington entered the night ranked sixth in the league with 2.0 steals per game, but he was also averaging 2.7 turnovers and 8.4 personal fouls per 100 possessions while shooting just 8-for-33 from the field, including 5-for-21 from three-point range.
The Sixers have a 97.4 offensive rating when Thybulle is on the court compared with a 110.7 rating when he is off of it. And despite the rave reviews he’s drawn for his defense, the Sixers have a 107.4 defensive rating when he is on the court compared with a 101.6 rating when he is off of it. For what that’s worth.
2) The Sixers’ offense without Ben Simmons is not the Sixers offense. That’s not to suggest that it is a finished product even with Simmons in the fold. But the absence of the third-year star takes away a critical component of their usual attack, with their transition offense a shell of its usual self. Raul Neto has looked like a solid backup point guard in his recent action, but he simply does not have the ability to force a defense onto its heels the way that Simmons does when he is running in the open court.
3) Even without Simmons, you’d like to see the Sixers’ half-court offense operate with more of an identity. Matchups like the one Embiid enjoyed against Hornets big man Cody Zeller are the type you’d hope would result in a steady dose of post action. While Embiid finished with 18 points, he often seemed to be on the periphery of the offense rather than the central cog. Embiid had his moments: Midway through the second quarter, he got Bismack Biyombo to leave his feet with a pump fake and then drew contact while banking in a shot to put the Sixers up, 39-28. Earlier, he sealed off Zeller to set himself up for an easy feed from Tobias Harris. Two possessions later, he was fouled after another seal. But as the game wore on, we saw less and less of Embiid as a featured component of the offense. Getting the big man into a groove should be a priority as the Sixers’ schedule eases up in the coming weeks.