Matisse Thybulle had a career-high 20 points against the Raptors, with 15 of his points coming from behind the arc (5-8 3PT). While Thybulle’s shots were almost exclusively spot ups, he was making things easy for himself, creeping a step or two at just the right moment to create a clear passing lane or pump faking passes to get himself just a bit more shooting space. He was his usual self defensively, wreaking havoc en route to 3 steals and a block. Thybulle’s performance and his role in the game was exactly what many fans envision for him on a consistent basis once he fully adapts and develops. Maybe not 60% from deep, but highly disruptive defense and an efficient shot profile of mostly threes and a dunk here or there. He did make a few ugly turnovers late in the game which contributed to a much closer finish than it should have been, but Thybulle was mostly brilliant.
The Sixers had one of their better shooting performances of the season against the Raptors with an eFG% of 59.5%, per Cleaning The Glass. The Sixers were effective shooting from any area of the court, converting at 65.2% at the rim, 45.8% in the midrange, and 43.8% from deep. Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle were especially trigger happy from three and efficiently so, combining for 9 triples on 16 attempts. It was a pretty solid offensive showing, except for one thing...
The Sixers had 17 turnovers, with Joel Embiid (7 TOV) and Ben Simmons (5 TOV) accounting for 12 combined. Quite a few team turnovers came late and the errors put a small damper on what was an otherwise impressive (and conciliatory) win. “It is disappointing that way that ended because I thought, for the most part, that we played good basketball,” Brett Brown said in reference to a sloppy 4th quarter. While it didn’t cost them against the Raptors, the Sixers’ turnover problem continues to be a major source of frustration, especially when you consider other indicators (per Cleaning The Glass: 6th in eFG%, 6th in OREB%, 13th in FT rate, 8th in 3PT%) which suggest things are mostly starting to click.
For example, let’s take a look at the Los Angeles Clippers’ victory over the Washington Wizards last night. Per Cleaning The Glass, the Clippers had 99 possessions, their free throw rate was 20.8, and their eFG% was at 59.9%. Those numbers are nearly identical to those of the Sixers against the Raptors: Philly had 98 possessions, a free throw rate of 20.3, and an eFG% of 59.4%. Yet the Clippers’ scored at a pace that was 19 points per 100 possessions better than the Sixers (129.1 vs. 111.1). Why? Because the Clippers didn’t waste waste possessions.
If the Sixers had, say, five less turnovers, that could be worth anything from zero to 15 points. Let’s say the Sixers produced 8 points. Their points per 100 possessions would have been up to 120.4. These numbers illustrate just how much of their own doing the Sixers must overcome to have a productive offensive game. Some nights, this offense is hauling a dumpster’s worth of dead weight. The Sixers scored at their 5th most efficient rate all season, yet defeated the Raptors by just 6 points. 3rd (62.5% eFG%) and 4th (60.7% eFG%) were against the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Hornets, respectively. Like last night’s game against the Raptors though, the Sixers turned the ball over on a fifth of their possessions in those games, and ultimately went a combined 1-1 against the Wiz and the Hornets with a point differential of just +2. Turnovers are a natural part of the game — the lowest per-game total this season is the Dallas Mavericks’ 12.9 and even that sounds like a lot. But the Sixers’ turnovers are so very frustrating because so many of them seem so very avoidable if the team’s two stars in particular would practice more awareness and better decision-making.
For all my complaints about the Sixers’ turnovers, they did rack up 31 assists. Maybe I’m being too hard on them... Ben Simmons fell just an assist short of a triple-double. Joel Embiid was feeling generous as well with 6 assists, the first two of which were particularly encouraging as Embiid quickly passed out of of double-teams to initiate the assists. It was the Sixers’ 5th highest single-game assist total on the year.
After last night’s 26-point performance, Harris is now averaging 24.4 points per game over his last five games while shooting 38.5% from 3PT on 5.2 attempts per game and hitting 90.0% from the line on 20 total attempts. He was the leading scorer for the Sixers in three of those games. Harris started the season struggling from three-point, but he’s really turned things around over the last month. Extending beyond the last five games back to November 15th, Harris has shot 41.4% from three over 13 games. The Sixers are 10-3 in those games, a winning percentage of .769.