Philadelphia 76ers

Furkan Korkmaz sparks sudden blaze, then leaps over logic

Furkan Korkmaz sparks sudden blaze, then leaps over logic

There came a point Friday night during Furkan Korkmaz’s career-best 24-point performance when everyone at Wells Fargo Center seemed to collectively shrug and say, “Sure. Why not?”

Korkmaz had already flashed his trademark skill, hitting four three-pointers in under two minutes during a sudden blaze at the end of the third quarter.

With a little less than seven minutes to go in the Sixers’ 100-89 win, he stared down Bulls center Cristiano Felicio. The 22-year-old then crossed Felicio over, blew past him, dunked and let out an exultant scream. 

“At that time of the game, I was really feeling it,” Korkmaz said. “I got that confidence. When I saw the open lane, I just took off. I was also not expecting that, but I just dunked it. That was a good moment.”

Korkmaz wasn’t done, though. He missed a well-earned heat check on the Sixers’ next possession, but dropped in a floater shortly after. And, just to confirm that it was indeed his night, he took a charge on Bulls star Zach LaVine. 

Which play did he enjoy more?

“It’s a tough question, but I think I would say the dunk,” Korkmaz said honestly.

This isn’t the first time Korkmaz has changed a game this season with his shotmaking. He had nine key fourth-quarter points Wednesday vs. Brooklyn, blew up the Bucks’ zone in the third quarter on Christmas and made the game-winning three on Nov. 2 in Portland.

The Sixers declined Korkmaz’s third-year option last year, then let him sit on the free-agent market until July 25. Though they billed him as a young, promising player, their actions suggested Korkmaz was not a prominent part of their plans. He appeared to be on the fringe of the rotation.

Brett Brown hasn’t passed up many chances to laud Korkmaz, and he had a great opportunity Friday.

It’s really quite a — to say it's incredible would be too dramatic — but it's a heck of a story, isn't it? Just where he was and where he is. For us to see him — and he's young, can't forget his birth certificate — for us to see him come in and do JJ [Redick]-like stuff and have that type of a bomber, that was different. … We ran probably, I don't know, five plays in a row going to him. 

“I had flashbacks of JJ. We jumped into JJ's package and he changed the game. He gave us a spark and whether it was a three ball — I don't remember JJ dunking like that … but the long shot and just like bam, bam, bam — quick points, buckets — fueled our defense.

While Korkmaz deserves credit for translating his hypothetical value as a shooter into real contributions this year — he’s made 71 threes, tied with Tobias Harris for most on the team, and converted 39 percent — he will probably not maintain Friday's euphoric high. 

He’s devoted time and energy to improving his defense, but the question of whether he’ll be able to hold his own in the playoffs remains open and valid. If he’s not sinking shots, his impact tends to not be positive. Any moves the Sixers make before the Feb. 6 trade deadline could shift his role, too.

But, for the time being, he is playing with an apparently limitless self-belief.

“As a player you just need to get that confidence,” he said. “When you start to feel good on the court and also your teammates see that, your coaching staff sees that — I think today everybody saw that I was feeling it — and I knew that I had to shoot those looks. I just take the open shots, that’s all I do.”

Brown is clearly relishing in Korkmaz’s success.

“He's quality people,” Brown said. “He's a genuine person and you're proud of that, too. Good things happen to good people ... He's put in the time and to his credit, he came in and changed the landscape of an NBA game. And he did it quite emphatically. It wasn't like it was swept under the carpet. He did it where ESPN and all of us and his teammates, probably more importantly, felt his success.”

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Furkan Korkmaz, Al Horford building a budding bromance

Furkan Korkmaz, Al Horford building a budding bromance

Sometimes, new teammates just seem to click. For one reason or another, guys gravitate towards one another.

For the Sixers, a budding bromance seems to be brewing between veteran Al Horford and youngster Furkan Korkmaz.

After Korkmaz had a monster game, scoring a career-high 24 points in the Sixers’ win over the Bulls Friday, Horford couldn’t help but gush over the Turkish wing.

He’s just great,” Horford said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters postgame. “He continues to get better, his confidence continues to grow. He’s a guy that’s a big piece for us. He’s figuring it out and as the season goes on, you can just see the improvement.

Then he took to Twitter to show even more love.

To which Korkmaz endearingly responded.

The play in the picture was this dunk off a drive which got Korkmaz to 22 points.

This isn’t the first time the pair have shown a kinship. After Korkmaz hit a few big shots on Christmas day against the Bucks, Horford was effusive in his praise. And when Korkmaz hit the game-winner in Portland, he credited the 33-year-old Horford.

I knew that Al (Horford) was going to set a good pick and try to get me open to make the shot. … I was wide open. I just let it fly, and I made it. That was also a huge comeback from double digits (down). Horford, I think, made a lot of shots.

While their bromance is alive and well, Ben Simmons also took to Twitter to celebrate his teammate’s big night.

Tobias Harris also retweeted that post.

Safe to say, the Sixers are pretty Furkan happy right now.

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Led by Furkan Korkmaz's red-shooting, Sixers have big third quarter to beat Bulls

Led by Furkan Korkmaz's red-shooting, Sixers have big third quarter to beat Bulls

BOX SCORE

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.


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.

Horford lives

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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