7 Reasons Philadelphia 76ers Defense Is so Tough to Crack
Do they have their games where they give up a lot of points?
Of course they do, but every team will have some of those on their schedule. The important part is for that to not become a regular trend.
Philly currently allows 93.9 points per game, good enough for seventh in the NBA. That number is higher than last year's unbelievable 89.4 points per game, but there is still a lot of basketball to be played.
They might not be doing as well as last season, but they are still a dominant defense when playing how they should.
Here's a look at seven reasons for why the Sixers defense is so tough to crack.
All statistics in this article are accurate as of games played through Dec. 3.
The phrase "follow the leader" is widely known.
Philadelphia does their part in making sure that the phrase will live on as they follow their leader's intensity and defensive mindset.
Doug Collins has made defense a focal point as his tenure as the Sixers coach has progressed. In his first year with the club, Philly allowed 97.5 points per game. Not sure if you remember or not, but that number dropped by more than eight points last year.
A change that drastic has to be attributed to the coach.
The team's personnel is important, but allowing eight less points in only one season has more to do with the coach and what kind of mentality he's bringing to the team.
Philadelphia trusts their coach and have seen that he has their best interest in mind.
The next step is to turn his coaching into a consistent playing style. Something that Philly is getting closer and closer to with every game.
Philadelphia Has One of the Most Versatile Teams in the League
Young is a natural small forward, but the Sixers don't have a deep frontcourt, forcing Young to play out of position. Playing in a unique spot isn't an excuse for Young as he's turned into a lockdown defender that can guard three positions.
Turner has also turned into quite the defender. Last year, Philadelphia used to throw him onto point guards just to switch things up. Now, it's not uncommon to seem him guarding point guards all the way up to power forwards. He is one of their most versatile offensive options, and they've found a way to make it translate to the defensive side of the ball.
Richardson is giving his all, but nobody is trying to fool anybody here. He's certainly not one of Philadelphia's top defensive options.
Holiday on the other hand, has discovered the art of playing defense. He's no Pablo Picasso, but it's clear that he's worked on his craft over the offseason.
This versatility allows for the Sixers to switch ball screens and avoid mismatches at almost every position.
Being able to do that is a unique trait in the NBA and one that doesn't go unnoticed.
The Sixers Don't Turn the Ball over on Offense
What's the best way for Philadelphia to limit the opposition's number of points?
How about not letting them get the ball.
One of the best ways to do that is to have the ball and not turn it over. When they limit their turnovers, Philly limits how many extra possessions the other team gets.
Extra possessions turn into extra points and the Sixers are second in the league in turnovers, only averaging 12.6 per game.
Break that down into quarters and you see Philadelphia giving up about three extra possessions a quarter. Going further, though, and you'll see that nearly everyone else in the league averages more turnovers than the Sixers, meaning that those possessions will come right back to Philly.
Moral of the story: Taking care of the basketball does a good job of taking care of the scoreboard.
Philly Does a Good Job of Staying out of Foul Trouble
The best way for scores to rise is for teams to get to the free-throw line.
Getting to the free-throw line allows teams to score points as no time comes off the clock.
Philadelphia fouls the other team 18.8 times per game. That's tied for the fourth fewest in the league.
Less fouls means that they're keeping the opposition off of the line and getting easy points.
Free-throws aren't going to ever be the highest number in a box score, but they tend to be one of the most important.
Philadelphia Has Found a Way of Stopping Opponents from Scoring in the Paint
Waiting for Andrew Bynum doesn't only hurt Philadelphia's potential for production.
It also hurts their height.
The Sixers currently have one active seven-footer in Spencer Hawes. On top of that, they occasionally start Lavoy Allen as their tallest player at 6' 9". When it's not Allen, it's Kwame Brown at 6' 11".
Honestly Brown's height doesn't really mean anything. Him starting is reason enough to be concerned.
Still though, Philadelphia is tied for third in the league allowing only 37.9 points per game in the paint.
That's absolutely incredible!
Hawes has shown that he can block some shots down low, but he can only do so much.
Not having legitimate paint defenders means that the Sixers are doing other things to keep the ball out of there entirely.
Rotating with the ball, playing great help defense and cutting off lanes to the hoop are a couple of examples of what Philly is doing well.
If they can do this now, can you imagine what they'll be able to do with a healthy Bynum?
Then again, one can only dream right?
Transition Defense Looks Like It's Been a Point of Emphasis
Believe it or not, but there's a shot that's easier than a free-throw.
It's a fast-break layup or dunk.
Luckily, the Sixers aren't fond of letting these take place too often.
There must be something about being tied for third in statistical categories as that's where Philly is at, only allowing 11.7 per game.
There are multiple strategies for having a good transition defense, but it looks as though the Sixers are employing the "two smalls back" one.
The basic concept of this is that your team's five players are broken down into two "big" players and three "small" ones. The two closest "smalls" to half-court are supposed to get back on defense when the shot goes up on offense, hopefully killing any chance of the other team getting a good fast-break opportunity.
This strategy has clearly been a very successful one and one of the reasons that their defense is so tough to score on.
Philly Finds Ways of Limiting the Number of Posessions in a Game
The last one is an obvious, yet still very important one.
When Philadelphia plays games, neither team gets many opportunities to have the basketball.
The Sixers are only 2.2 possessions away from the league low, as they average 94.3 a game.
Every possession has five eventual outcomes. Those are scoring one point, two points, three points, missing a shot and turning the ball over.
There's an immense value in every possession, and they're often overlooked on an individual basis.
Philly doesn't have this problem and it's the base of why they allow so few points per game.
Now it's time to see if the Sixers can improve in any of these areas, as it feels like they'll have to if they want to make a deep playoff run.