76ers vs. Hawks takeaways: Dominant defense from Matisse Thybulle helps propel Philadelphia to victory

PHILADELPHIA — Four months ago, the Atlanta Hawks upset the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Philadelphia to advance to the conference finals and eliminate the Sixers in the process. On Saturday night, the Sixers got their first crack at revenge as they hosted the Hawks for the first of three meetings between the two teams on the season, and they were clearly eager for the opportunity. 

Thanks to some stout defense, the Sixers jumped out to an early 28-15 lead after one quarter of action, and they never really looked back as they were largely able to keep the Hawks at arms’ length for the rest of the contest. At halftime, the Sixers led 60-46, and after three quarters their lead stood at 89-69. When all was said and done, the Sixers walked away with an impressive 122-94 victory. 

Tobias Harris led the way for Philadelphia with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Joel Embiid added 19 points and five rebounds of his own. In all, the Sixers had six players score in double-figures, compared to just four for Atlanta. Cam Reddish paced the Hawks with 16 points off of the bench, while Trae Young and Danilo Gallinari both added 13 points. 

The two teams will meet again twice in December, but before moving forward, let’s look back at three key takeaways from Philadelphia’s commanding Mischief Night victory over Atlanta. 

Thybulle’s dominant defense 

Matisse Thybulle put on a defensive clinic in the first half of the contest against Atlanta. In the first half alone, Thybulle had a steal that led directly to two free throws for Philadelphia, and he also had two emphatic blocks on Hawks guard Cam Reddish. On one of them, Thybulle swatted a Reddish corner three attempt a few rows deep into the stands. On the other one, he just completely swallowed a Reddish midrange pullup. Here’s a quick look at both blocks:

Thybulle wasn’t done there, either. He added three more steals and another block in the second half. Two of those steals led directly to a fast break dunk, like this one: 

The game was Thybulle’s 63rd career game with at least two blocks and a steal, which is tied with Anthony Davis for third most such games in the NBA since Thybulle entered the league in the 2019-20 season. Only two former Sixers players — Robert Covington and Nerlens Noel — have more during that span, per Sixers Stats. Thybulle finished the game with 11 points, but it was on the defensive end of the floor where he was really a difference-maker in this one. 

Thybulle is only in his third season, but he’s already one of the best defenders in the entire NBA, and it’s always entertaining to watch him dominate on that end like he did on Saturday night. 

A pedestrian performance from Young

Trae Young was electric against the Sixers in the playoffs last season, but that wasn’t the case on Saturday night. In 32 minutes of action, Young finished with just 13 points while shooting just five of 16 from the floor, and one of four from long range. He was also a game low -23 during his time on the floor. He did finish with 10 assists, but his overall impact was limited thanks to some solid individual defense from guys like Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey, and good overall team defense from Philadelphia. Not every performance can be a great one, and it’s safe to say that Young will want to push this one out of his memory pretty quickly. 

Promising play from Maxey 

Tyrese Maxey has done an admirable job of taking over as Philadelphia’s starting point guard in the absence of Ben Simmons, and Saturday night was one of his better games of the season thus far. Not only did Maxey outscore Trae Young (16 to 13), he also shot much more efficiently. Maxey was six of eight from the floor in the game, and he also knocked down all three of his free throws. He added three assists, a steal and a block for good measure, and also played some tough defense on Young over the course of the contest. 

“I think Tyrese stepped up to the challenge and was able to force [Young] to take some tough looks and get in his space,” Tobias Harris said of Maxey’s defense on Young after the game. “Overall with a guy like that who can make shots, you got to play him real physical and just make him take those in-between ones and live with them.”  

Maxey is still developing as a player and a point guard, but against Atlanta it was clear that he’s moving in the right direction, and his performance is a big part of the reason that the Sixers were able to walk away with a win. 


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