Matisse Thybulle vaccine decision could swing series for Raptors

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 20: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 20: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors officially have their playoff matchup confirmed, as they have a date with Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers up on the schedule. With secondary stars like James Harden providing his usual dose of scoring and Matisse Thybulle showing off his perimeter defense, Philly is going to be a tough out.

Nick Nurse can take solace in the fact that he won’t have to gameplan around Thybulle for half of the series. Canada’s vaccine mandate for crossing the border has only prevented one person from playing in Toronto. After missing a regular-season game in Toronto, Thybulle was confirmed to be less than fully vaccinated.

For some bizarre reason, Thybulle only received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, claiming that he believed it would prevent him from ever getting the virus. This not only shows a lack of basic public health knowledge and literacy, but it will keep him out for Games 3 and 4 of the first-round series in Toronto.

Thybulle might not sound like a game-changing player, but the drop off from him to someone like Danny Green or Shake Milton as a defender is substantial. The loss of Thybulle is so seismic that Toronto might be able to win a game it might otherwise have lost.

The Toronto Raptors will benefit from Matisse Thybulle sitting out.

While All-Defensive standout Fred VanVleet might be second in the league in deflections per game, Thybulle ranks at the very top of the league in terms of deflections per 36 minutes. You’ll put up with lackluster offensive stats when he’s averaging 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes.

At 6-5 with a 6-11 wingspan, Thybulle is one of the most versatile defenders in the conference. In order to make up for a negative defensive asset in Harden, Thybulle has become more important than ever. For half of this series, Philly won’t be able to lean on him.

The individual Raptor who might benefit the most is Gary Trent Jr. Before their regular-season finale last week, Trent has gone 8-37 from the field in the prior two matchups. Without Thybulle, Trent scored 30 points on solid efficiency in a potential preview of what a playoff series could look like.

Thybulle will be able to suit up for all of Philadelphia’s home games, but there’s no telling how long this series will go. What if this series goes to six games and Thybulle has to miss a third game? Doc Rivers and the rest of the team can’t be happy with how he has handled himself.

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