Sixers' defense has been far and away league's best since All-Star break


The 32-13 Sixers will be right back at Staples Center Saturday night after a victory there Thursday over the Lakers. 

Here are the essentials for their game against the 30-16 Clippers: 

  • When: 10 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 9 p.m.
  • Where: Staples Center 
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia  
  • Live stream: and the MyTeams app 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Key Clippers injured 

Typical Clippers starters Patrick Beverley (right knee soreness) and Serge Ibaka (lower back tightness) have both been sidelined since mid-March. 

Kawhi Leonard missed Los Angeles’ win Thursday over the Spurs with right foot soreness and is questionable against the Sixers. Marcus Morris is also questionable with a right calf contusion. Reggie Jackson and Ivica Zubac have been replacement starters for Beverley and Ibaka, respectively, while second-year player Terance Mann stepped in Thursday for Leonard.

Joel Embiid (left knee bone bruise) was the only Sixer on Friday night’s injury report. As for when new addition George Hill will be available, president of basketball operations Daryl More said Thursday, “I don’t want to give a timeline, but it’s not long.” Hill has been out after having surgery on his right thumb. 

Rivers taking on old team 

This will be Sixers head coach Doc Rivers’ first game against the Clippers since being fired on Sept. 28. 

He wasn’t unemployed long, of course, with the Sixers hiring him on Oct. 1. The cross-country shift has certainly worked well on his end as he’s done an excellent job leading the first-place Sixers. 

“Listen, I made a lot of friends there,” Rivers said Thursday. “I made very few enemies, you know what I mean? Hopefully not. Walking in the door today, it’s the same people. I don’t know if people understand that, when you come to Staples Center, the same workers work both games. For me, saying hi to all of them walking in today was fantastic. 

“It’s sad, though. A lot of guys that park the cars and things like that are not working right now. They only have one guy back there due to COVID. Even though we’re playing the games, you can still see a lot of the people who work the arenas and are involved in everyday operations don’t have a job right now or are laid off. That hits home when you come back to somewhere where you’re used to seeing a lot of people. That was the first thing that I actually noticed walking in this building.”

Tyronn Lue, an assistant under Rivers on the Celtics and Clippers, has taken over his old job. As was the case with Rivers last season, he’ll ultimately be judged most on how the Clippers fare in the postseason.

No. 1 defense? Sixers trending in right direction 

Morey thinks the Sixers’ championship ambitions rest on their defense.

“We feel like if we’re going to win the title, we have to be the best defense in the league," he said. “Right now I think we’re No. 2; I believe we’re going to finish the season No. 1. We felt like George solidified that. Team often will attack your weakest defender on the floor, and we had quite a few lineups where there was an option for the other team to attack.”

For the season, the Sixers have a 108.0 defensive rating outside of garbage time, per Cleaning the Glass, which is second behind the Lakers. 

Since the All-Star break, though, their defense has been tremendous. The team has a 100.1 post-All-Star defensive rating. That’s 6.2 points better than the No. 2 Lakers. The most an opponent has scored on the Sixers after the break is the Bucks’ 109 points on March 17 (in an overtime game), the Sixers’ only loss this month. 

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