DETROIT — In a weird kind of way, the 76ers’ struggles against a zone defense, at this time of the season, could be a good thing.
That’s because they have a few months before the playoffs start in late April to correct their deficiencies.
“When you are going through it, it’s hard to sort of feel that way,” coach Brett Brown said of the timing. “But when you wake up the next morning, you feel like you are a little bit smarter. The guys are figuring some stuff out.
“It’s just such an unusual dose of zone that we’ve seen, that you are getting an incredible sort of practice against it.”
The Sixers faced the zone defense during a combined 156 possessions in their last three games against the Wizards (Saturday), Mavericks (Friday), and Heat (Wednesday). That’s more possessions facing zone than teams usually see during an entire season.
“If somebody came out and played a box-and-one or triangle-and-two, it has a chance to take some time to figure some stuff out,” Brown said. “I think we are getting better for the painful experience.
“And I feel like when we look in the rearview mirror on April 15, we are going to look at this as a painful learning experience that in fact did make us better.”
This isn’t exactly the best time for Matisse Thybulle to be sidelined indefinitely with a bone bruise and sprain of his right knee. The rookie, who is having an all-rookie-type season, will be reevaluated in two weeks.
Thybulle suffered the injury while colliding with Wizards’ reserve Troy Brown Jr. late in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game.
The Sixers will definitely miss his presence in the coming weeks.
“To be honest with you, I thought it could had been worse,” Brown said. “So I pivoted completely to almost thrilled as it turned out. … We will miss him for sure.”
The Sixers brought up Shake Milton from the Delaware Blue Coats as insurance of sorts. However, reserve power forward Mike Scott and reserve point guard Trey Burke could get more playing time in Thybulle’s absence.
A standout three-and-“D” player, Thybulle is second on the team in steals per game at 1.43. The 22-year-old is shooting 46.3% on three-pointers, ranking sixth in the NBA as of Sunday. He shot 56% (14 of 25) from that distance over his last eight games.