Sixers-Heat: 3 players who have to step up in Joel Embiid’s absence

Shake Milton, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Shake Milton, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

The Sixers will be without Joel Embiid for at least the first two games of their second-round series against Miami. Already underdogs, the Sixers are now universally written off — every ESPN expert picked Miami and with no home-court advantage, it’s easy to feel like Philadelphia is destined for another premature exit.

If there’s going to be any hope of a Cinderella run for the shorthanded Sixers, it will have to start with multiple players stepping up in bigger roles. It’s easy to pinpoint James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris as the players with the greatest burden to carry, so we will focus on role players for the purposes of this article.

Here’s who needs to step up in Embiid’s absence.

Sixers who have to step up in Embiid’s absence: Matisse Thybulle

It’s difficult to predict Matisse Thybulle‘s game-to-game impact with any degree of certainty, especially in the playoffs. Miami is well-built to exploit Thybulle’s offensive limitations, but on the flip side, we should see a lot more five-out small ball without Embiid. That setting could allow the Sixers to hide Thybulle in the dunker’s spot and use him as a screener whenever Harden is running the show.

The Sixers need something from Thybulle in this series. I’m not the most optimistic on that front, but with Embiid out the Sixers would benefit greatly from a vintage defensive showcase from the 24-year-old. Thybulle is the only Sixers defender outside of Embiid who can single-handedly derail entire possessions for the opposing team. If Philadelphia can find ways to make THybulle work offensively, his defense could go a long way toward keeping Miami in check.

We should know pretty quickly if Thybulle can hang in this series. The Heat are a great defensive team in a very similar mold to Toronto’s defense, and the Raptors’ defense made Thybulle unplayable. But, on the flip side, Miami has more perimeter firepower than Toronto, which makes Thybulle’s skill set all the more important if he can turn in a passable offensive performance.