Welcome to "One Play!" Throughout the 2020-21 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will break down certain possessions from certain games and peel back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.
Today, Philadelphia 76ers defensive ace Matisse Thybulle takes the spotlight.
Context: Matisse Thybulle put on a show in Philadelphia's recent loss to the Phoenix Suns.
While he went scoreless in 35 minutes of action, Thybulle was a menace defensively, coming away with three blocks and two steals, both of which were game highs.
Not only that, Thybulle helped the 76ers contain Devin Booker, who has a history of torching Philadelphia. With Thybulle serving as Booker's primary defender, the two-time All-Star was limited to 19 points on 6-for-14 shooting from the field.
Let's take a closer look at one of Thybulle's stops on Booker before getting into the big picture stuff.
Breakdown: Booker brings the ball up the court following a pair of free throws from Mike Scott.
Almost as soon as Booker crosses halfcourt, Torrey Craig makes his way towards him and sets a screen at the top of the perimeter.
Booker uses Craig's screen, and Scott hedges while Thybulle spins his way around Craig in the hopes of meeting Booker on the other side.
With Scott's hedge being a tad late, George Hill has to help off of Cameron Payne in the left corner to prevent Booker from getting a straight-line drive to the basket. Dwight Howard also provides help by planting himself underneath the rim, forcing Tyrese Maxey to drop down on the weakside to prevent Howard's assignment, Dario Saric, from slipping to the basket.
Rather than forcing a shot over Howard, Booker kicks the ball out to Jevon Carter in the right corner.
With the ball no longer in Booker's hands, Thybulle hits the breaks for a split-second.
The problem? Booker doesn't do the same.
Fortunately for the 76ers, Thybulle spots Booker making his way to the corner before it's too late.
Thybulle closes the gap between him and Booker at the blink of an eye and uses his 7-foot wingspan to send his 3-point attempt out of bounds.
After the game, 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said Thybulle's ability to close out "reminds me a lot of Deion Sanders." This is probably the possession that gave him flashbacks to the Hall of Famer.
Why it matters: A few reasons.
One, Thybulle has been eating 3-pointers for breakfast this season. According to PBP Stats, he has blocked a total of 18 3s, putting him behind only Toronto Raptors big man Chris Boucher (24) for most in the league. The only other player who has blocked double-digit 3-pointers is Jerami Grant (10).
Two, no pass is safe around Thybulle. Despite averaging only 20.1 minutes per game, his 1.6 steals are tied with Ben Simmons for most on the 76ers. That works out to be 2.8 steals per 36 minutes, which is the most in the league among players who have appeared in at least 20 games. Similar deal with deflections. Thybulle (3.1) is averaging almost the same amount of deflections per game as Simmons (3.7) but leads the league among qualified players with a whopping 5.6 deflections per 36 minutes.
Last but not least, the NBA's tracking data has opponents shooting 37.7 percent from the field when being defender by Thybulle, which - you guessed it - is one of the stingiest marks in the league. It's even more impressive considering there aren't many players who take on more difficult matchups.
Now, each one of those only tells part of the story, but it gives you an idea of how disruptive of a defender Thybulle has been to this point of the season. Plus, Thybulle passes the eye test with flying colours. He's been harassing elite scorers all season long. Booker wasn't the first, but it was perhaps his most memorable performance to date.
"I thought he was unbelievable overall," Rivers said of Thybulle postgame. "I thought he chased [Booker] to exhaustion. It's a hard job, and I don't know if anyone has done a better job on Devin. Devin is tough. Overall I thought he was absolutely phenomenal tonight."
The fact that Thybulle only plays 20.1 minutes per game might prevent him from cracking an one of the two All-Defence Teams this season, but he's quickly establishing himself as one of the most feared defenders in the league.
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