Is the Sixers Defense That Good?

After a win last night over the Magic in which it looked like the Sixers would hold Dwight Howard's team to under 60 points until a late surge, it seems like the right time to talk about just how phenomenal the Sixers defense has been over the first 21 games of the season.

They're easily the number one ranked defense in the league, locking down a defensive efficiency of 92.3. The league average is 99.8 and the first team behind the Sixers is the Eastern Conference leading Chicago Bulls at 94.6. That's not even close. Doug Collins' team has held offenses to under 80 points 7 times already this season, including three straight games. Opponents are only averaging 86.1 points against them, good for first in the league. The defense is the reason for all the 20+ point blowouts, all the points in transition, and mostly why they're sitting at 15-6 with nobody on the team averaging over 16 points per game.

With Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner locking down the wings, Jrue Holiday keeping better hold of his man up top, and the surprisingly terrific Spencer Hawes/Elton Brand/Nikola Vucevic trio down low, they've been able to mask the inefficiency of Jodie Meeks and Louis Williams and (to a pleasingly lesser extent) Thaddeus Young.

But are they this good? I mean, really. This is phenomenal. Can they sustain holding opponents to a 41.8% field goal percentage while shooting under 30% from beyond the arc? I don't have a clue. Through almost a third of the season, the Sixers have the best team defense in basketball, and that's without a dominant big man to back them up. That's damn impressive.

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