76ers

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

Sixers suddenly beating once unbeatable teams

BOX SCORE

BOSTON — What a difference two games make.

The Sixers entered this week 0-8 against the top three Eastern Conference teams: the Celtics, Cavaliers and Raptors. By Thursday night, they had picked up two straight wins over them.

The Sixers followed up Monday’s victory over the Raptors with an 89-80 win over the Celtics (see observations)

“I think we are in a good position right now,” Ben Simmons said. “Still a lot of improvement, a lot of things we’ve got to pick up on, but I think we are doing really well and getting better.” 

All season long, a downfall of the Sixers has been giving up leads. Ten, 15, 20 points have been erased just like that. 

The Sixers’ largest advantage was 21 points in the last two games, and in both instances their opponents fought back. The Raptors cut the lead to one with three minutes to play; the Celtics got within seven with two minutes on the clock.

Unlike in the past, the Sixers held on for wins.

“We’ve been in that situation too many times,” Joel Embiid said. “We just have to stay calm and keep moving the ball. We made a couple mistakes, but everything was fine and we got the win.” 

The game was missing two key players. The Celtics were shorthanded without their leading scorer, Kyrie Irving (shoulder). The Sixers were down starting shooting guard JJ Redick (leg). Brett Brown considered their absences “almost a wash.” 

Newly-announced All-Star starter Embiid led all players with 26 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, his 19th double-double of the season. 

“They are still a great team,” Brown said of the Celtics. “For us to come in here and build a lead, hold onto the lead, close out the game, and at times not in a pretty way, is a fantastic result for us.” 

With the win, the Sixers snapped a seven-game losing streak at TD Garden dating back to April 4, 2014. They also avoided a regular-season sweep by the Celtics. 

The Sixers moved above .500 (21-20) and into the eight spot in the East. The Celtics and Raptors could be postseason pairings if the Sixers hold their ground in the standings, a scenario they are well aware of in these regular-season games. 

“I don’t know what seed we are going to be, but that’s a potential matchup in the playoffs,” Embiid said. “We always want to come out and try to dominate and let them know that it’s not going to be easy.”

Robert Covington, Joel Embiid named to NBA All-Defensive teams

Robert Covington, Joel Embiid named to NBA All-Defensive teams

Robert Covington and Joel Embiid were recognized for their defensive efforts this season.

Covington was named to the All-Defensive first team, Embiid was selected to the second team.

Brett Brown has lauded Covington for his effort plays. He led the league in deflections (3.9), ahead of Paul George and Victor Oladipo. When Covington was on the court, the Sixers had a defensive rating of 99.0 compared to 107.4 when he was off. He also was first in defensive win shares compared to those who played at least 70 percent of their squad’s games. 

Covington finished with 90 points between 27 first-team and 36 second-team votes. He joined leading vote-getter Jazz center Rudy Gobert, Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, Pacers guard Oladipo and Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday on the first team. 

Embiid led the Sixers with 12.6 rebounds and 1.75 blocks per game this season. When he was the closest defender, opponents shot a league-high 7.8 percentage points worse than expected on field goal attempts. Embiid ranked first in that category, ahead of Davis and Al Horford, off a minimum 200 defended shots. 

Embiid, a Defensive Player of the Year finalist, topped the second team with a total of 90 points (four first-team votes, 82 second team). Warriors forward Draymond Green, Celtics forward/center Horford, Spurs guard Dejounte Murray and Timberwolves guard/forward Jimmy Butler also were named to the team. 

Ben Simmons received five first-team votes. 

A panel of media members voted for two guards, two forwards and one center (based on the players’ most frequent position) for each team. The players who got votes at more than one position (Davis, Horford, Butler) were designated to the position at which they received the highest amount of votes. First-team votes carried two points, second-team votes one. 

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Furkan Korkmaz

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AP Images

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Furkan Korkmaz

Furkan Korkmaz

Position: Shooting guard/Small forward

Status for 2018-19: Signed for $1,740,000

Korkmaz in 2017-18
And you thought Markelle Fultz had a roller-coaster rookie season. Korkmaz’s first professional season in the U.S. was anything but smooth. 

Despite a promising performance in summer league and the preseason, the Turkish swingman was always going to be buried on the Sixers' bench. However, it wasn’t even clear which jersey he would be wearing on a nightly basis, as Korkmaz was assigned to the Delaware 87ers (now Blue Coats) and recalled by the Sixers 10 different times during the first two months of the season.

Things got even worse in mid-December when Korkmaz suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot while playing in the G League.

By the time Korkmaz returned toward the end of March, his season was a wash. In all, he played 24 total games (15 with the Sixers and nine with the 87ers). While he was able to show glimpses of why he was a first-round pick in 2016 in the Gatorade League (15.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals in 31.9 minutes a night), his action in the NBA came mostly in garbage time (1.6 points, 0.7 rebounds, 0.2 assists and 0.1 steals in 5.7 minutes a contest).

The 2017-18 served as the ultimate learning experience for the 20-year-old Korkmaz.

Signature game
It’s hard to have a signature game when you only play in 15 total NBA games and none of your minutes actually come in meaningful moments. So we’ll go to the G League for this one. 

On Nov. 20, Korkmaz notched 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the 87ers’ 119-111 loss to the Wisconsin Herd (see highlights).

Looking ahead to 2018-19
Korkmaz’s proving ground for next season will start this summer when he is expected to take the court in summer league again.

The Sixers hope there he can regain the shooting touch he showed overseas that helped make him a first-rounder. The step up in defensive intensity clearly affected Korkmaz as he shot just 28.6 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from three-point range for the Sixers. He was even worse in one aspect in the G League where he connected on 35.0 percent from the field and a dismal 19.4 percent from three.

Spending another summer in the Sixers’ program will also help benefit Korkmaz’s body. He was able to add some weight to his lean frame this past season but certainly still needs work to take the physicality at this level.

If he is able to work on his shot and physique, perhaps Korkmaz can find some more minutes for Brett Brown next season other than when the games are already decided.

On Korkmaz
“The NBA’s totally different, but [when] you get used to it, it’s real fun. You really enjoy it. I’m playing with very good players, and everybody here is a good person. They try to help me every day. We are practicing hard, we are working hard, and when you try to know how to play with each other, you start to feel better and you start to play better.”

- Korkmaz on adjusting to the NBA