Game Preview | Team Takes Defensive Identity to Orlando

by Lauren Rosen

As the 76ers visit Orlando for the second and final stop on their preseason road trip, the team has one priority in mind.

“Our identity is defense,” Ben Simmons said Friday. “We want to be the best defensive team in the NBA.”

Well, if the Sixers’ first exhibition matchup against another NBA club is any indication, the club could be on its way to achieving this goal.

Reaching double-digits in both steals and blocks (14 stl, 13 blk) Friday against Charlotte, the Sixers accomplished a feat they only reached once last season.

Those totals included a pair of steals from Simmons, three from Al Horford, and three blocks from Josh Richardson. Rookie Matisse Thybulle pocketed four steals.

The group turned the Hornets over nine times in the first quarter alone.

“I thought at times our defense was swarming and we were able to take that energy and turn them over and then took off. It was a great launching pad to our fastbreak,” Brett Brown said postgame.

Even in his early days as a Sixer, Thybulle (4 stl, 1 blk, 3 pts, 3 reb, 2 ast) is making himself a key part of the team’s defensive identity.

“The game is definitely coming to me,” Thybulle said Friday. “I’m getting a feel for the speed and it’s starting to slow down in my mind a little bit.”

 “His energy is fantastic,” Brown said.

All of the Sixers’ stars have played roles in cementing the team’s commitment to defense — Tobias Harris in particular. 

"He's been one of our better defensive players," Brown said of Harris.

Playing the four spot Friday with Horford starting at the five, Harris grabbed eight boards, a rebounding total second only to that of Horford, who collected nine.

Things are starting to flow offensively too.

The Sixers shared 27 assists against Charlotte, with every starter and 12 players total getting in on the action.

 “The offense, as it relates to the team, was purposeful, spaced, and unselfish,” Brown said.

Facing the Magic gives the Sixers their third of five preseason opportunities to continue improving and gelling as a unit. 

Opponent Outlook

Orlando won its first three straight preseason games before falling to the Celtics, 100-75, Friday without All-Star big man Nikola Vucevic (ankle). Vucevic practiced Saturday, though, and could appear against the Sixers. Coming off the bench, Terrence Ross has led his team in scoring during the preseason, averaging 16.0 points per game.

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