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Sixers to make do without Thybulle in lineup for Games 3 and 4 in Toronto

Border restrictions will keep one of the Philadelphia 76ers best defensive players off the court for Games 3 and 4 of their NBA playoff series with the Toronto Raptors.

Border restrictions will keep one of the Philadelphia 76ers best defensive players off the court for Games 3 and 4 of their NBA playoff series with the Toronto Raptors.

Shooting guard Matisse Thybulle will not travel with the Sixers to Canada for the next two games of their series because he is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Thybulle explained on April 10 that he had one dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine but decided against getting a second shot, let alone a booster.

“I'm not fully vaccinated,” said Thybulle when directly asked about his vaccination status by a reporter. "This was a decision I made a long time ago. I thought a lot about what I’d say here. Essentially, I made this choice and I thought I could keep it to myself, I could keep it private, but people are always going to wonder why."

The 25-year-old Thybulle, who holds dual American-Australian citizenship, went on to explain how his upbringing informed his decision.

"I was raised in a holistic household where 'anti-vax' is not a term that was ever used. It's a weird term that has kind of been thrown around to just label people," he said. "But we grew up with Chinese medicine and naturopathic doctors. With that upbringing, coming into this situation I felt like I had a solid foundation of medical resources that could serve me beyond what this vaccine could do for me."

Current guidelines state that any adult entering Canada must be fully vaccinated for at least two weeks before crossing the border. By Canadian standards a fully vaccinated individual has their second two-shot vaccine dose or a single shot of the Johnson & Johnson formulation. 

The United States also has restrictions for unvaccinated Americans, like Thybulle, trying to return home.

Unvaccinated Americans must provide negative tests taken within one day of departure, a policy designed to support another regulation that keeps unvaccinated foreign nationals from entering the U.S. Unvaccinated Americans also must commit to taking a second test three to five days after landing.

Thybulle is a defensive stopper for Philadelphia. He has averaged 5.7 points with 2.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game over 66 appearances this season. He had five points and three blocks in the Sixers' 112-97 win over Toronto on Monday night. That win gave Philadelphia a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Doc Rivers, the 76ers head coach, was asked after Monday's win what his team will do without Thybulle in the possibly series-clinching games. He said Philadelphia has no choice but move forward.

"We just have to," Rivers told reporters. "We have a plan and we just have to. We don’t have him."


Philadelphia star Joel Embiid and Raptors head coach Nick Nurse exchanged words over the quality of the officiating toward the end of Game 2. 

Embiid had 31 points, 11 rebounds and went 12-for-14 from the free-throw line, taking more free throws than Toronto's entire lineup, in the 112-97 Sixers win. Nurse had been vocal with officials throughout the game, and Embiid took it upon himself to say something to Toronto's coach.

"He's a great coach," Embiid told reporters afterward. "Obviously, he's been able to accomplish (a lot) and always been a big fan.

"But, I told him, respectfully, I told him to stop bitching about calls."

Nurse was more sanguine in his post-game news conference, making the conversation with Embiid sound cordial.

"(Embiid) was saying to me, 'I'm going to keep making all the free throws, if you keep fouling,' and I said, 'Well, you might have to,''' said Nurse.

"But (he's) a good player, man. I've got a lot of respect for him. He's certainly playing great here."


The Raptors announced on Tuesday afternoon that forward Scottie Barnes, a finalist for the NBA's rookie of the year, was doubtful for Game 3 with a left ankle sprain. 

Toronto also announced that swingman Gary Trent Jr. is questionable for Wednesday night's game with a non-COVID illness,

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2022.

The Canadian Press