The Philadelphia 76ers remain a perfect 5-0 to begin the season after a 129-128 come-from-behind victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. Furkan Korkmaz hit a three from the corner with 0.4 seconds remaining to win the game.
Philadelphia did not have a lead until there were 10.1 seconds left in the game, and Portland was up by 21 points at one point in the third quarter. However, none of that mattered as the 76ers fought through a barrage of Portland threes to move to 5-0 on the young season.
Here are some observations from the victory.
Furkan Korkmaz emerges as the hero for Philadelphia
With less than 10 seconds remaining and the 76ers down two, who were most fans expecting to see the ball go to off the inbounds play? Tobias Harris? Ben Simmons? Al Horford? Josh Richardson?
The answer, one that nobody could have expected, was Furkan Korkmaz. Head coach Brett Brown drew up an inbounds play for Korkmaz and the Turkish native rewarded his coach's confidence in him by nailing the corner three for the win.
Korkmaz has been a much maligned player throughout his time in Philadelphia. However, he has been receiving some solid minutes as one of the first wings off the bench this season. Many people, myself included, have been preaching to give him less time on the floor. He has been a below average defender and an underperforming shooter so far in his career. This season, though, could be different.
He finished the win over Portland with 11 points, including going 3 of 6 from beyond the arc, and he added three rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 20 minutes off the bench. Brown has continued to give him a chance to develop and Korkmaz showed tonight why he is worthy of being a consistent player, for now, in the rotation. He is up to 35% from three-point range this season, and if he can continue to shoot the ball from outside at a decent clip and play average defense, he will continue to earn minutes on the floor.
76ers take advantage of smaller Portland lineup
On a night where the Trail Blazers had only one player who was taller than 6-foot-9, the 76ers made it a goal to dominate the game inside.
In the first quarter, Ben Simmons went to work in the paint, scoring 11 of his 18 points on the night. Throughout the rest of the game it was a combination of Al Horford and Tobias Harris leading the way inside for the Sixers.
Horford was the most aggressive we have seen him in a Philadelphia uniform, totaling 25 points on 24 shots. He had perhaps his best game in a 76ers uniform, as he also was savvy offensively as a passer. He finished with seven assists while committing only one turnover.
Harris, once again, played well on a night when the 76ers were without the services of superstar big man Joel Embiid (two-game suspension). He finished with 23 points (on 10-of-15 shooting) to go with seven rebounds, three assists, a steal and two blocks. One of the team's go-to outside shooters, Harris attempted only two threes against Portland. He had success all night posting up and working out of the midrange against smaller Portland defenders, something coach Brown was emphasizing for him throughout training camp.
The 76ers' size allows them to play a bully ball style, and Portland was without both Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside: Meaning that it was a golden opportunity for Philadelphia to attack inside like they did all night long. Portland countered by shooting the lights out from three-point range, and they came extremely close to coming away with the victory. The Trail Blazers shot 34 threes and made them at a 55.9% clip. Philadelphia outscored them in the paint 84-40 as the clear contrast in offensive styles showed all throughout the game.
Kyle O'Quinn has been an underrated offseason addition for the 76ers
Want to know a name nobody talks about when they discuss the 76ers' offseason additions? Kyle O'Quinn. Yet he will be playing an important role this season for the 76ers as one of the main backup centers, especially on nights where Embiid is not playing. He can do a bit of everything on the floor, whether it be shooting a three here or there, playing solid defense or making smart plays on offense.
Against Portland, O'Quinn totaled nine points, seven rebounds and five assists in 18 minutes off the bench. He made a few incredible passes, hit a three and grabbed a few hustle rebounds (including an offensive rebound and put-back in the game's final minutes).
Between Horford and O'Quinn, the 76ers might have the league's best backup center duo. They made it a priority this offseason to address the backup center position for nights where Embiid is not available to play, and the improvement at the position should be one of the things that propels the 76ers deep into the playoffs.
Raul Neto should begin to receive more minutes off the bench
Welcome to round two of the 76ers bench players who I did not peg right. Throughout training camp and the preseason, Raul Neto and Trey Burke were battling for who would receive the backup point guard minutes on most nights. As the better scorer, I thought Burke would win the competition. However, as the results have shown in the season's first five games, Neto came out on top and has been playing well in the limited minutes he has been receiving off the bench.
With the 76ers down double digits late in the third quarter, coach Brown went to Neto to steer the offense. It was another case of Brown hitting the right buttons on Saturday night, as Neto played six highly-productive minutes. He finished with four points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal while playing a role in getting the 76ers back into the game. While playing only six minutes, he managed to be a plus-13 on the floor.
Neto plays with a calm demeanor and he does not often make the flashy pass, but he is usually productive and should receive more minutes off the bench this season as the backup point guard.
Stats and other important things
- Ben Simmons had a night that is becoming all too familiar to many 76ers fans. He gets off to a hot start offensively (11 points in the first quarter), cools down and becomes less aggressive as the game moves along and then makes a few special plays in the fourth quarter. Against Portland, he finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. The most important play he made all game occurred with 10.1 seconds left in the game, when he drew a foul with the Sixers down by one. Portland challenged the foul call (the foul stood up) and effectively iced Simmons at the line. A poor free-throw shooter (career 58.1% from the line), Simmons hit both shots from the line to put Philadelphia up by one. While Simmons needs to be more consistent offensively, he has shown some growth on the court this season and his late-game trip to the line was definitely one of those growing experiences.
The 76ers, who will be without Joel Embiid as he sits out the second game of his two-game suspension, continue their West Coast trip on Monday at 9 p.m. EST with a game against the 4-2 Phoenix Suns.