It's hard to shut down star players in the NBA. Often, simply looking at the box score won't tell the full story about how a game went. On Friday night, the Zach LaVine led Chicago Bulls faced the Philadelphia 76ers, and as expected, the All-Star hopeful got his points as he collected 30 in 37 minutes on the floor.
But just because LaVine dropped 30 points doesn't mean the Sixers did a poor job defending him. It took 28 shots for LaVine to get there -- and he drained just 32-percent of his attempts from the field on Friday night.
After the game, LaVine admitted the Bulls didn't have a good shooting night overall. Still, the Sixers knew that LaVine's struggles specifically came as a result of the good job Matisse Thybulle did on the defensive side of the ball.
“Matisse is like the secret sauce tonight,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said after the game. “People are gonna look at his line, and they’re not gonna see much. He had two points, but he was so huge tonight defensively. When you can get away with not double-teaming Zach Lavine in the game, which helps your defense all around the floor, it makes you a much better defensive team.”
Sixers center Joel Embiid had himself a standout night as he scored a career-high of 50 points. Although most of the talk was all about him, Embiid made sure to issue credit to the second-year guard for keeping the other team's star in check while he went to work on the offensive end.
“I said the other night that he has a chance to be the best perimeter defensive player in the league, and he showed that tonight,” the star center said in regards to Thybulle. “Zach is a great player, and he’s been fantastic all year. I think he should be an All-Star, and he deserves it. But by looking at the stat sheet, I see. 9-for-28, and that’s all Matisse.”
Thybulle might be a work in progress on offense, but at this point, it's evident he's on pace to become one of the NBA's best perimeter defenders. Although Friday night's defensive dominance was truly nothing new for the second-year guard, Sixers veteran Tobias Harris believes Thybulle plays even better against notable opponents.
“You saw on full display of what he is capable of doing,” Tobias Harris mentioned. “We’ve been seeing it all year, and I think he definitely gets up for the bigger matchups with guys that are rolling. He’s everywhere on the floor defensively. He’s got such quick hands to be able to get in guys’ space and cause havoc.”
The Sixers managed to hold the Bulls 105 points while they produced 112 of their own. While all of the talk will surround Joel Embiid's big-time scoring night, the Sixers wanted to make sure Matisse Thybulle gets his props for another stellar defensive performance.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_