PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia 76ers are looking to become a great defensive team in the 2022-23 season. Joel Embiid laid out the plan for the Sixers to be the top defensive dogs in the NBA and, as they prepare for the regular season, they are honing in on that goal by looking to improve communication on that end.

The Sixers allowed a bevy of triples in the first half in their home preseason opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell gave the Cavs a 64-60 lead at halftime on Wednesday as the team made 10 of its 20 3-pointers. At Friday’s practice, head coach Doc Rivers said that the Cavs, for the most part, “had their way” in the first half, the first game that Embiid, James Harden, P.J. Tucker, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris all played together.

There’s no real concern to be had over that game, which the Sixers ended up winning, but they still have some improvements to make before the real games begin.

“It’s really important,” Rivers said of communication on defense. “You have so many different guys, so many guys [that] have come from so many different systems. The clearer you are, the louder you are, the multiple times you yell it is very important. We don’t do that yet.”

Rivers singled out Tucker as someone who actually does get loud on defense and added that the team needs to follow his lead. With his intense play and booming voice, Tucker makes for a key leader for the team as a whole but especially on defense. The 37-year-old forward said that “getting guys talking, communicating, getting coverages down” was key in Friday morning’s practice. 

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Tucker said that the practice was a “defensive practice” to get guys more familiar with the scheme and how to communicate better. He called it one of the best practices that the Sixers have had this season so far. It may not mean much given how little time they have worked together to this point. However, the intensity and unity Tucker described will certainly look to be replicated going forward.

The Sixers have the defensive personnel — headlined by Embiid, Tucker, De’Anthony Melton and Matisse Thybulle — to be great on that end. They had their moments against the Cavs but will ultimately have to play more together in order to truly improve. They face the Cavs again, this time on the road, on Monday before welcoming LaMelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday to close out their slate of preseason games.

Although the Sixers have some improvements to make, Rivers and Tucker sounded pleased with the early returns so far. “We’ve got Joel talking. To hear him talking today was crazy,” Tucker said. “So, we’re gonna try to build off that, see what happens tomorrow.” Philadelphia is playing an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday afternoon at Chase Fieldhouse, the home of their G League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats.