This season, the Philadelphia 76ers have a record of 31-17 through 48 games, which is a vast improvement from last season at this time. While many folks will look toward the explosion of offense for the team’s success, it has been their exceptional play on defense as well.
Even though Philadelphia is giving up 111.8 points per game to their opponents thus far. They have done a better job defensively in their last three only, allowing an average of 102 points.
Furthermore, the Sixers have a Defensive Rating (DRtg) of 109, ranking them in the top third of all NBA teams. They finished with a DRtg of 105 last season, putting them right in line to finish with that same mark this season.
On Monday night, Philly’s defense helped them blow out the Rockets, 121-93 down at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers, who were without Jimmy Butler, did a good job of defending James Harden, but also made sure no one else could hurt them from the outside.
Despite the reigning MVP scoring 37 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the field and 6-of-13 from three-point range, Philly held him to only 10 points in the second half.
No other Rockets’ starter reached double figures, while Kenneth Faried and Gerald Green had 13 and 18 points off the bench respectively.
What also made this victory impressive was that they held Houston to 93 points and 11 made three-pointers. Coming into the game, the Rockets were averaging 112.6 points a game and a ridiculous 130.7 points in their last three contests.
Second-year point guard Ben Simmons was asked about the team’s defensive mentality after the game and why they were able to have success.
“I think, in terms of defense, I think the way we are able to match up with teams is different. We’re able to switch a lot of things. We have a lot of athleticism on the floor, at most times down the floor,” he said.
“I think just everyone was locked in, no one really got sidetracked to how many points James [Harden] had. You know he’s going to get his points and have a lot of points, whatever it is, but at the end of the day, it’s how you defend the whole team.”
Head coach Brett Brown and the Sixers coaching staff did a great job of devising a gameplan to slow down the prolific scorer. Without having the services of Butler, Philly threw different defenders at him, but only one player gave him the most fits: Corey Brewer.
The veteran swingman, who signed a 10-day contract last week with the team brought energy on both sides of the ball and frequently got into Harden’s personal space.
“I just wanted to be aggressive and everything, you just got to make it tough. So I wanted to be in front of him, stay in front of him and make him shoot over the top,” said Brewer.
That formula worked out for the Sixers as Harden only had three assists. They also threw a block party at the WFC, erasing 14 shots and making things difficult at the rim for the Rockets.
If the Sixers want to continue to climb the Eastern Conference standings and hopefully make the conference finals, it starts on the defensive end. While they did a great job defending Harden, they still have a tough stretch of games coming up where they will see the likes of DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and others.