Heading into their first matchup against the Hornets on Oct. 27, the Sixers were 2-3 and struggling defensively. Their 110.4 defensive rating ranked 17th in the NBA.
Since then, the Sixers are 5-2 with a 101.9 defensive rating, tied for fourth best in the league.
The Sixers' communication on switches has been much improved since those first five games. And outside of Sunday night's clunker in Brooklyn, the team's defensive effort has generally been strong.
Robert Covington's stellar two-way performance was crucial in that first matchup vs. Charlotte, a 105-103 Sixers win. Covington scored 18 points, including a key three-pointer down the stretch. He also played excellent defense on Kemba Walker, who scored 37 points but shot 11 for 31 from the floor.
Walker is still putting up plenty of shots (20.5 per game, the most in the NBA) for the 6-5 Hornets, and still scoring plenty of points. He's second in the NBA in scoring with 28.1 points per game.
• Dario Saric finally had the breakthrough game the Sixers have been waiting for in Wednesday night's win over the Pacers, the Sixers' first road victory of the season (see story).
The Sixers used Saric some as a small-ball center when Joel Embiid went to the bench in Indiana. With Mike Muscala out for at least a week with a fractured nose and facial laceration, and with Amir Johnson the only other traditional big man in the Sixers' rotation besides Embiid, it wouldn't be surprising to see Brett Brown continue to go small on occasion. Look for more lineups that feature Saric at center and Ben Simmons at power forward. Wilson Chandler will likely also get minutes at the four.
• Landry Shamet's 21 made three-pointers are second most among rookies. Over his last four games, Shamet is averaging 12 points and shooting 55.2 percent. We did a film review yesterday on Shamet's impressive, mature game and the similarities he has with JJ Redick (see story).
Redick himself hasn't shot the ball well since the Sixers' first game vs. the Hornets - 32.4 percent overall, 27.7 percent from three-point range.
Below are the essentials for Friday night's game. The Sixers are looking to open the season with a seventh straight win at Wells Fargo Center.
Jerryd Bayless, G, 6-3/210, No. 0
Jonah Bolden, F, 6-10, 220, No. 43
Wilson Chandler, F, 6-9/225, No. 22
Robert Covington, F, 6-9/225, No. 33
Joel Embiid, C, 7-0/260, No. 21
Markelle Fultz, G, 6-4/200, No. 20
* Demetrius Jackson, G, 6-1/200, No. 11
Amir Johnson, F/C, 6-9/240, No. 5
Furkan Korkmaz, G/F, 6-7/185, No. 30
T.J. McConnell, G, 6-2/190, No. 12
* Shake Milton, G, 6-6/205, No. 18
Mike Muscala, F/C, 6-11/240, No. 31
JJ Redick, G 6-4/195, No. 17 13
Dario Saric, F, 6-10/250, No. 9
Landry Shamet, G, 6-5/190, No. 23
Ben Simmons, G/F, 6-10/230, No. 25
Zhaire Smith, G, 6-4/200, No. 8
* Two-way player
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