For a team looking to make progress, Saturday’s game represented headway.
And not just because the 76ers (3-3) got a hard-fought win, either.
Their defense, arguably the greatest strength of the club a season ago, delivered its strongest performance of the new year.
The Sixers set season-lows by holding the Charlotte Hornets to 103 points, 38.9 percent shooting, nine 3-pointers, and a 25.7 3-point percentage.
In the fourth quarter in particular, the D shined. Charlotte managed to convert a paltry 5 of its 23 shots (2-11 3fg).
Yes, All-Star guard Kemba Walker scored 14 points in the frame, but most of that volume was generated at the free throw line.
Robert Covington assumed a pivotal role in holding Walker to 3 for 10 from the field in Saturday’s fourth period, and, in general, getting the Sixers’ defense back on track.
“We had to buckle down. The game was going back and forth, but we had to get crucial stops, and that’s what allowed us to get the victory.”
Covington was terrific in leading that effort. He was his First-Team All-Defensive self, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, and four blocked shots.
The fifth-year Sixer contested 20 shots.
“First-Team All-Defense, I got a lot of pride to take,” said Covington. “I got to build off that. My mindset is to be as great as I can. I’ve set the standard, now I’ve got to maintain that well beyond.”
While strides were taken in Saturday’s triumph, the Sixers recognize that collectively, more needs to be done to get back to where they were defensively last season, when they finished third in the NBA (103.8 points allowed per 100 possessions).
“The second half we did a better job guarding our own men,” Joel Embiid said. “That’s a good sign.”
Communication continues to be work in progress.
“I think it got better,” said Ben Simmons. “There are still things we have to touch up.”
One of the youngest teams in the NBA, the Atlanta Hawks (2-3) have, all things considered, gotten off to a respectable start. After dropping their first two games of the season, they rebounded for back-to-back wins over Cleveland and Dallas, before Saturday’s home loss to Chicago.
Trae Young, the no. 5 overall pick acquired in a draft night trade with the Mavericks, tops all rookies in scoring (19.8 ppg) and assists (6.8 apg). He’s second in threes (12).
Speaking of the three-ball, first-year head coach Lloyd Pierce, a Sixers assistant the past five seasons, has Atlanta looking long. The Hawks are tied for the NBA-high with 15.3 triples per game.
• Audio: 97.5 FM The Fanatic / Sixers Radio Network
• Video: NBC Sports Philadelphia / NBC Sports MyTeams app