Still adjusting to life without Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers found themselves in a battle with the Chicago Bulls until a third-quarter burst helped them create the separation they needed to pick up the 100-89 win.
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Philadelphia now moves to 27-16 on the season, keeping touch with the tight bunch placed between second and fifth in the East.
Career-night for Korkmaz
The Sixers depth has been questioned since opening night, as their second unit has often struggled to find ways to put points on the scoreboard, inconsistent shooting plaguing them throughout.
On this night, Furkan Korkmaz bucked that trend, finishing with 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the field and 6-for-9 from three.
The point total and 3-point makes were career-high marks for the 22-year-old, and it was an incredible stretch in the third quarter that brought the home crowd in Philadelphia into a frenzy.
With four minutes left in the third quarter, the Sixers held a 65-60 lead.
1:52 later, Korkmaz drilled a Ben Simmons-assisted triple to give the Sixers a 77-63 lead. It was the fourth long range bomb in the stretch for Korkmaz, three of them assisted by Simmons, and the game felt effectively over.
Furkan Korkmaz (20 PTS) drills FOUR CONSECUTIVE triples! 🔥🔥🔥🔥@chicagobulls 68@sixers 79- NBA (@NBA) January 18, 2020
📺: ESPN pic.twitter.com/fBlGpZ8Gdq
Yes, the Sixers are lacking spacing and shooting, but perhaps an expanded role for the improving Korkmaz will be the difference-making addition from within.
Simmons' dominant form continues
Coming into tonight, Simmons was averaging 20.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists over his last six appearances.
In this one, the Australian tallied 20 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, completely controlling the pace of the game and taking advantage of his physical ability to dominate the young Bulls roster.
As usual, all 10 of Simmons' made field goals came in the restricted area, as he threw down repeated dunks both in the half-court as a roll man and in transition.
The highlight of the night came on a solo fastbreak, when Simmons took the ball the length of the floor, drove his right shoulder into Lauri Markkanen at the free-throw line, before powering up for the poster dunk on the Chicago big man.
That one standout play was an impressive reminder of the irresistible force of Simmons in full flight.
Ben Simmons pushes the pace and PUNISHES THE RIM! 😤- NBA (@NBA) January 18, 2020
📺: ESPN pic.twitter.com/5RuRVO6jQq
LaVine's All-Star push update
Zach LaVine wants to be an All-Star.
He's certainly made no secret of that fact, though this night might not be one to point to when assessing his credentials
An explosive finisher at the rim, LaVine was often met with the length of the Philadelphia defence when he was able to find a way into paint.
Everyone just wants to see Zach fly ↗️@nbcschicago | #RunWithUs pic.twitter.com/2K9dgrO73m- Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 18, 2020
Impressively, he managed to finish 9-for-13 from two-point range despite drawing the attention of Simmons and Al Horford. It was his outside shooting that proved to be the thorn in his side, as he was unable to connect on any of his seven tries from beyond the arc.
LaVine was averaging 24.6 points per game on 40 percent shooting from deep coming in to tonight. Certainly All-Star calibre numbers, but time will tell if it's enough to see him in the marquee game at United Center next month.
Bulls battling to keep touch with playoff spot
Chicago head coach Jim Boylen has insisted on multiple occasions the goal is to reach the playoffs, but a tough stretch in the schedule has seen the Bulls skidding their way into the new year.
After tonight, the Bulls have now lost nine of their last twelve games, leaving them 15-28 on the season, 4.5 games behind the Brooklyn Nets in the eighth seed.
With the regular-season just reaching the halfway point, there is plenty of time to make up that gap, but they will need to halt their losing ways sooner rather than later.
The Bulls host the Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow.
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