Despite Another All-Defensive Honor, Matisse Thybulle's Future With Sixers is Uncertain

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Matisse Thybulle is just 25 years old and on Friday, for the second consecutive season, was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. Despite that, his future with the Philadelphia 76ers remains uncertain going forward. Deciding what to do with Thybulle is just one of many important decisions president of basketball operations Daryl Morey will have to make in order to propel this roster into true championship contention.

Thybulle, a defensive specialist, stepped into the role of being the Sixers' best perimeter defender this season, averaging 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks in 25.5 minutes per game. He has a knack for finding his way to the basketball often by disrupting the passing lanes. He is a risk-taker who plays an aggressive style of defense which at times can cause him to get beat while at other times allows him to make some brilliant defensive plays. Overall he is one of the NBA's best young talents on the defensive end of the floor.

Despite his strong defensive play, he is clearly a flawed player. He cannot stay on the floor because he is an offensive liability. He scored just 5.7 points per game and has failed to make enough improvements to be at least a semi-productive player offensively. There were countless number of times where he was on the floor and the opposing defense left him alone because he poses no threat.

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Rivers Set to Remain Sixers Head Coach, for Now. Was it the Right Call to Bring Him Back?

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Many Philadelphia 76ers fans remain frustrated after yet another unceremonious second-round exit from the playoffs. The Sixers were ousted from the playoffs by the Miami Heat after putting together two lifeless efforts in Games 5 and 6. They were outworked by Miami, and by the end of the series it was clear who the better team was.

A lot of the players brought up a lack of mental toughness in the days following the end of their season. It was evident the Sixers lacked the requisite emotion, intensity and effort throughout Games 5 and 6. This resulted in, among other things, calls from the fanbase for Doc Rivers' tenure as the team's head coach to come to an end.

President of basketball operations Daryl Morey came out during his end-of-season press conference last Friday and, with Rivers seated next to him, seemingly put all the noise to rest with a simple "Yes" when asked if Rivers would remain the team's head coach next season.

However, Morey's public endorsement of Rivers failed to quell the noise and rumors regarding the Sixers potentially parting ways with Rivers. Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, both from ESPN, added some more information about Rivers and the Sixers. Shelburne, on "NBA Today" last Friday, mentioned how the money (Rivers has three years remaining on his five-year, $40 million contract) is key and it is important they came out and presented a united front.

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One Major Flaw Sixers Have to Correct This Offseason: Lack of Mental Toughness

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

As their playoff elimination sunk in, one common phrase kept getting tossed around by players throughout the Philadelphia 76ers' roster: Mental toughness.

Their loss to the Miami Heat in the second round exposed a lack of mental toughness as one of the team's core issues. The Heat played a much more tough, physical style of basketball throughout the series. Miami's roster is built around toughness, physicality and resiliency. The Sixers are severely outmatched in all three of those areas.

For all of the Sixers' roster weaknesses and questionable coaching decisions throughout the series, the team ultimately came unglued due to a lack mental toughness, a far greater trait necessary for all championship teams to have. Tobias Harris, after the team's 99-90 loss on Thursday in Game 6, reflected about how the team's lack of mental toughness cost them against the Heat.

"Mental toughness," Harris said. “I think so. Just mental toughness. That part of it, I don’t think we have yet. Seeing the Milwaukee game yesterday [Wednesday against the Celtics], that’s a team that’s been through the fire, being able to fight and keep going. At times for our group, too many things just affected us as a whole. We drop our heads too much. Our body language at times is crappy. We needed that to be better throughout this series. And I think that hurt us in this series.

"Our mental toughness for sure hurt us against that group. And they did a lot of things to kind of challenge that — the hustle plays, the 50-50 basketballs, everything. The physicality by them, as well. We needed to be better as a collective group at just holding our head and just fighting, just going right back at it. And I don’t think we did a great job of that."

The Sixers showed some resiliency at different times throughout the season, headlined by a fourth place finish in the Eastern Conference at 51-31 despite the Ben Simmons drama surrounding the team for much of the year. Joel Embiid, who by the end of the series against Miami looked physically beaten down, missed the opening two games against Miami before ultimately playing through both an orbital fracture and torn ligament in his thumb.

However, the Sixers as a team fell far short in the toughness category necessary for winning a championship. After battling back to even the series at two games, they collapsed and put together a pair of listless performances in Games 5 and 6. The team lost Game 5 by 35 points and, with their backs up against the wall, stepped out on the court with no intensity and essentially rolled over for Miami in Game 6. The Sixers were out-rebounded by 14 in Game 6 while playing with zero aggression. It was an inexcusable effort made all the worse with it coming with their season on the line.

Embiid, after the team's loss in Game 6, also did not shy away from talking about the Sixers' need for more toughness. A lot of his comments centered around P.J. Tucker, a player on the Heat who centers his game around playing with toughness, intensity and energy.

"When you have size and toughness, that goes a long way. You look at someone like P.J. Tucker, great player, but it's not about him knocking down shots, it's about what he does, whether it's on the defensive end or rebounding the ball," Embiid said. "Defensively, plays with so much energy, believes that he can get from point A to point B, and he believes that no can beat him, and he's tough. He's just physical and he's tough, and they have a few of those guys.

"Since I've been here, I'd be lying if I said we've had those type of guys. Nothing against what we have, it's just the truth. We never have P.J. Tucker, that's really what I'm trying to say. I think physicality, once you get to the playoffs or the later rounds, you need that, you need those guys that are really tough."

As Embiid noted, the Sixers' loss to the Heat made it clear they need an infusion of toughness and grittiness to the roster. The Heat, with few exceptions, beat the Sixers up and down the floor with relative ease. Changes to the roster will need to be made this offseason to build a more resilient, tough and balanced team. However, Embiid also looked inwards and carefully discussed how the onus is on the players to motivate themselves and perform at a high level.

"I believe that we have the right people. I think at some point you got to stop looking at coaching or front office, you got to look at the players," Embiid said on Thursday. "Maybe they're just not good enough. I'm not trying to blame anybody. The players also got to do their jobs, it doesn't matter how much a coach or GM talks to you or try to motivate you, if you still go out there and don't do your job, and the other team is more physical than you, that's on the players.

"I don't think at this point we should need anybody to motivate us. This is our job. If you're really serious about winning, I don't need anybody to be in my ear about playing hard and doing my job. This is what I get paid for and I love doing it."

Gripes can be made about the coaching from Doc Rivers, who the team announced will be retained through at least next season, throughout the series against the Heat. However, Embiid correctly goes into how it is not the coach's responsibility to motivate the players to play with energy and intensity out on the floor.

The next few months will be filled with people throughout the organization contemplating many uncomfortable questions about the roster and what can or needs to be done to improve it throughout the coming offseason. President of basketball operations Daryl Morey will have his hands full attempting to correct some of the team's major flaws, including a lack of mental toughness. When asked in his joint press conference with Rivers on Friday about what the team's primary goals will be this offseason, he did not commit to any specific answer.

“Defensively — very important,” Morey said. “I guess the reason I’m pausing … is I often feel like if you go into the offseason with, ‘We need to fix X,’ you end up closing off potential opportunities and avenues. And it’s also the day after [elimination], so I just think I need to meet with Doc and his staff and our staff, and just really get a full picture on what they’re seeing before I give an answer like that [on areas to improve the roster].”

There are many questions and things to improve on throughout the Sixers' roster. As was made clear both through the team's performance against Miami and the effective case being made from both Harris and Embiid after Game 6, adding more toughness to the roster needs to be near the top of the list of offseason priorities moving forward.


Sixers' Danny Green Diagnosed With Torn ACL and LCL

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The hits keep on coming for the Philadelphia 76ers. Just one day after their season ended, wing player and veteran Danny Green was diagnosed with both a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee.

The injury looked brutal in real time. Joel Embiid crashed to the floor after attempting a layup, rolling up onto Green's leg and causing him to go down in a lot of pain. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported during Game 6 there was some fear about the severity of the injury, and the MRI today confirmed those fears.

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Daryl Morey Announces Sixers Will Keep Doc Rivers as Head Coach

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Despite all the rumors and speculation surrounding Doc Rivers' future, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey came out and put all of that to rest. When asked by a reporter during their exit interview on Friday afternoon about if Rivers would remain the Philadelphia 76ers' head coach next season, he responded with a simple "yes."

Even though the Sixers endured another disappointing second-round exit in the playoffs, Rivers will be sticking around as the team's head coach for at least one more season. His contract is currently set to go through the 2024-25 season at $8 million per year.

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3 Observations: Sixers' Season Comes to an End After Brutal Performance in Game 6

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Philadelphia 76ers, with their backs to the wall in Game 6, failed to perform and earn a Game 7 back down in Miami. The Heat took care of the Sixers in relatively easy fashion on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, disposing of them 99-90 in Game 6.

Jimmy Butler powered the Heat with another great performance, finishing with 32 points and eight rebounds.

Joel Embiid finished with 20 points while grabbing 12 rebounds for the Sixers. James Harden, who was brought in mid-season to help push the Sixers over the top, finished with just 11 points and nine assists while turning the ball over four times.

The Sixers were outplayed in every facet of the game from their intensity and energy level to controlling the basketball and shooting well from three-point range. It was a disappointing way to end the season for the Sixers.

The Sixers have not advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 2001. Here are three observations from the season-ending loss to the Heat in Game 6:

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3 Observations: Sixers Get Routed by Heat in Game 5 Down in Miami

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Nothing went right for the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 5. The Miami Heat, back on their home floor, routed the Sixers 120-85 on Tuesday night. The win gave them a 3-2 series lead over Philadelphia.

Jimmy Butler led the way for the Heat, scoring 23 points in addition to grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out six assists. Max Strus added in a double-double, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Joel Embiid finished with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting in the loss.

The Heat were without Kyle Lowry (left hamstring strain) after he re-aggravated the injury early in Game 4.

The Sixers now have their backs up against the wall heading into Game 6 on Thursday night back in Philadelphia. Here are three observations from the blowout loss in Game 5:

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3 Observations: Harden Powers Sixers to Big Game 4 Win, Evens Series With Miami

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Philadelphia 76ers evened up their series with the Miami Heat at two games apiece with a 116-108 win in Game 4 on Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The win was powered by a superb performance from James Harden. He scored 31 points, knocked down six of his 10 shots from three-point range, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out nine assists. This was the type of performance the Sixers expected when they acquired him in a blockbuster deal at the trade deadline earlier this season.

Joel Embiid added in 24 points and 11 rebounds as he continues to get more comfortable on the floor while wearing a protective face mask and playing through an orbital fracture.

The Heat, who were without backup big man Dewayne Dedmon (non-Covid illness), were led by 40 points from Jimmy Butler in their losing effort.

Game 5 is on Tuesday back down in Miami. Here are three observations from the win in Game 4:

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3 Observations: Embiid Returns, Sixers Grab Huge Win in Game 3

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

It was a case of deja vu for the Philadelphia 76ers. Four years ago, Joel Embiid returned from an orbital fracture in Game 3 of the Sixers' first round playoff series against the Miami Heat. On Friday night in front of a packed house at the Wells Fargo Center, Embiid returned from the very same injury (with a concussion added on) for Game 3 of the Sixers' second round series against the Heat.

He played through obvious discomfort while wearing a protective face mask, scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to help the Sixers capture their first win of the series, 99-79.

Tyrese Maxey scored 21 points, with all of them coming in the second half. Danny Green set a new season-high with 21 points while knocking down seven of his nine attempts from beyond the arc. The Sixers, in large part due to Green's hot shooting, recovered from two extremely poor shooting games to knock down 48.5 percent of their threes in Game 3.

Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 33 points. Kyle Lowry returned to the lineup for the first time this series after missing the opening two games with a left hamstring strain.

Game 4 is at 8 p.m. on Sunday. Here is three observations from the win in Game 3:

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Report: Sixers List Embiid as Out, but Return Still Possible Heading Into Crucial Game 3

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Philadelphia 76ers have not fared well playing without Joel Embiid (orbital fracture and concussion) in the first two games of their second round series with the Miami Heat. There was some optimism he could return heading into Game 3 back in Philadelphia, but according to multiple reports he remains listed as out, at least for now.

However, the situation is potentially subject to change. Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski both are reporting "there's still progress that could be made to change his availability" for Game 3 on Friday.

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