For a while, this had the look of one of those games where the Sixers play down to the level of their opponent and lose.
Then the third quarter happened.
Thanks to the red-hot shooting of Furkan Korkmaz and turning up their defense a notch, the Sixers were able to beat the Bulls, 100-89, at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night.
Joel Embiid missed his fifth straight game as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn ligament on the ring finger of his left hand.
The Sixers' dominance at home continues as their record improves to 20-2 and 27-16 overall. They’re back at it Saturday night at Madison Square Garden for a date with the Knicks (7:30 p.m./NBCSP)
Here are observations from the win:
Korkmaz goes nuts in third
The bench didn’t provide much punch in the first half. A lineup of Josh Richardson alongside Korkmaz, Raul Neto, Kyle O’Quinn and Mike Scott finished the first quarter. The results were suboptimal.
Then Korkmaz went absolutely nuts in the third quarter. The Turkish wing went 4 of 4 from three, helping the Sixers turn a halftime deficit into a double-digit lead. This is the second game in a row where Korkmaz’s shooting has been game-changing. He still has his issues defensively, but the Sixers need shot makers and he’s been one recently.
He hit a career-high 6 threes on 9 attempts and finished with 24 points, also a career mark.
Perhaps his new sneaker choice helped.
Hard-hitting journalism here. Furkan no longer wearing yellow or green shoes. pic.twitter.com/USba6go9Qk— Paul Hudrick (@PaulHudrick) January 17, 2020
Simmons at the rim
As he’s done since Embiid has been out of the lineup, Simmons was aggressive early. In this one, he attacked the 6-foot-4 Kris Dunn in the post and had his way at times.
Simmons has been on a different level in the way he’s attacked the rim recently. He often has games where he comes out looking to score, but he’s been going to the rim with bad intent.
Simmons finished with 20 points (10 of 17), 11 rebounds and seven assists. He had just two turnovers.
Brett Brown admitted pregame that he doesn’t want to put Simmons on the other team’s best player defensively because of the big minutes he’s playing. The strategy seems to be working, but when Simmons has gotten his chances against the opponent’s better players, he’s been ready.
Matisse on LaVine
Matisse Thybulle, getting the start for the second straight game, was tasked with guarding the dangerous Zach LaVine. At practice Thursday, Thybulle talked about playing against LaVine in high school. LaVine was one of the best players in the state of Washington while Thybulle was just a freshman.
Before tonight’s game, LaVine told reporters that Thybulle actually blocked one of his shots in that game.
Not sure if it helped Thybulle at all, but he did a solid job against LaVine, who came in averaging over 24 points a game. LaVine didn’t get much going until late in the second quarter with Richardson guarding him. Overall, the potential All-Star was 9 of 20 for 23 points.
The impressive rookie was able to catch LaVine on a couple of his out-of-nowhere type blocks. He continues to get his hands on everything, recording three blocks and two steals.
The Sixers signed Al Horford for stretches like this. Horford is not Embiid, but the team needs the drop off to be less dramatic.
Offensively, this was one of Horford’s better performances. Along with Korkmaz, he ignited the Sixers in the third, scoring the team’s first nine points out of the break.
His 20 points were the most he’d had since he went for 32 in Phoenix on Nov. 4. He also added six assists and five rebounds.
Sleepy start, strong finish
The Sixers found themselves down one at the half in a game where LaVine hadn’t really even gotten going.
Shooting 3 of 14 from three didn’t help. Their offense once again looked stagnant. It seemed like they were just overpassing and there wasn’t much aggression outside of Simmons. At one point, it took the Sixers having six men on the floor just to get a good look at a three.
Their transition defense also didn’t help. The Bulls held an 18-4 advantage in fast break points in the first half. Part of it was the lack of shotmaking, which the Sixers have let creep into their defense at times. They also just looked a little sleepy, perhaps playing down to the level of their opponent.
In the second half, the Sixers turned up their defense another level and the shots started to fall in bunches. The Bulls had just 11 transition points after the break and the Sixers wound up shooting 9 of 29 from three. They took the third quarter 35-24 and that pretty much sealed the game.
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