ORLANDO, Fla. — So far, the hype about the 76ers starters has been real.
Throughout training camp, the unit talked about being a towering, dominating defensive force. And that has been the case in the two preseason games that Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, and Ben Simmons have played together. (Embiid sat out Friday’s victory over the Charlotte Hornets because of load management.)
“We are going to be great defensively, especially when everybody locks in,” Embiid said after a 126-94 victory Sunday over the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. “I feel like we are going to create a lot of problems. But it starts on defense, and I’m excited about what we can do in the regular season.”
Their dominating presence was evident from the start Sunday.
The Magic (3-2) hit just 2 of 8 shots and committed two turnovers before the Sixers (3-0) made their first substitution with 6 minutes, 45 seconds left in the opening quarter. That set the tempo for the game.
Orlando shot 26.1% (6-for-23) and missed all seven of their three-pointers in the first quarter. The Magic ended up shooting 39.1% overall (34-for-87) and 25% on threes (8-for-32).
Just as in their game against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions, the Sixers were too big and athletic for Orlando. Richardson is the shortest starter at 6-foot-6. Harris (6-9), Simmons (6-10), Horford (6-10) and Embiid (7-2) are 6-9 or taller.
“Our length is up there with the best of them from one through five in the lineup,” Harris said, “and just our tenacity, I think we really are taking a pride defensively. We want to get stops. We are challenging one another day in, day out.”
The starters actually have battles with each other for getting the most stops.
“Little stuff like that is big for our team,” Harris said. “We are embracing that. That’s something that’s been special for our group thus far.”
Richardson is having arguably the biggest impact. The shooting guard, acquired from the Miami Heat in the Jimmy Butler trade, has eight steals and three blocks through three games. He recorded those three blocks in 25 minutes, 24 seconds of action in the 100-87 victory over the Hornets. Then the fifth-year player had five steals Sunday against the Magic.
Simmons, his backcourt mate, has five steals in three games, with two coming Sunday.