Philadelphia 76ers could start Matisse Thybulle in Celtics series

The rookie is in line for a big role in his first playoff series with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics play tonight in Game 1 of the first round. This series will provide a critical test for Joel Embiid and the Sixers, who are without All-Star forward (and arguable Defensive Player of the Year snub) Ben Simmons.

Many media members already favor the Celtics — and to some, it isn’t particularly close. My line of thinking tends to agree. Boston in five is my prediction, though some of our writers feel more favorably about Philadelphia’s chances. This is a series that could end swiftly if the Sixers aren’t up to snuff.

This series could also determine Brett Brown’s job. Another first round exit — no matter how much blame the front office deserves — will likely spell the end of Brown’s tumultuous and singularly odd tenure in South Philly. If anything, he has motivation to pull out every last stop.

Brown is already mulling potential adjustments ahead of Monday night’s series opener. He told the media on Sunday that Matisse Thybulle could get the start. When asked if it was a consideration, here’s what Brown had to say, according to PhillyVoice’s Kyle Neubeck.

“We’re talking a lot about doing different things. It is being considered. Obviously I’m not going to tell you that. We’re talking about a lot of things but I think to your original point, Matisse will have a significant role defensively in this series.”

This is typical coach speak, especially ahead of a playoff series. There’s a real chance Brown is simply blowing smoke and mirrors before inevitably starting Al Horford against his former team. Brown did not specify who Thybulle would replace in a hypothetical change to the starting five, but we can safely assume it’s Horford.

I’m in favor of starting Thybulle. I think it’s the right move. He cannot contain Jayson Tatum for an entire seven-game series — few players can — but he’s the Sixers’ only real threat to Boston’s All-Star wing. Tatum is a big, physical, and crafty scorer. If Thybulle can’t match him physically, he can at least use his length to act as a disruptor. Getting Tatum out of rhythm is priority No. 1 for the Sixers defense.

Thybulle doesn’t bring a ton offensively, but Horford is a mostly redundant talent next to Joel Embiid in the starting five. Horford has played much better since arriving in Orlando, and he and Embiid have even developed some chemistry, but there’s not much lost in shifting Horford to the bench. He and Embiid will probably share minutes regardless.

Next: Sixers-Celtics predictions

If Thybulle starts, Philadelphia will at least have its best defensive foot forward, which is critical against Boston’s vast array of perimeter scorers. It may not matter in the end — Thybulle is still a rookie, after all — but the Sixers are likely to find more success if Thybulle is playing up to his reputation on defense. He’s one of the few game-breaking players on the roster.

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