The Philadelphia 76ers continued their dominant run at home with a 100-89 victory over the Chicago Bulls. With center Joel Embiid still working his way back from finger surgery, forward Ben Simmons led the Sixers to their 20th home win of the season.
Philadelphia is now tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for the best home record in the league and has won four of its last six games overall. Most importantly, it's been able to weather Embiid's injury with Simmons leading the way and Tobias Harris stepping up to support the offense.
The Bulls, meanwhile, continue an abysmal season under head coach Jim Boylen. The one bright spot remains Zach LaVine, who maintained his All-Star pace Friday with 23 points.
- Ben Simmons, PG, 76ers: 20 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists
- Furkan Korkmaz, SG, 76ers: 24 points, six three-pointers
- Al Horford, C, 76ers: 20 points, six assists, five rebounds
- Zach LaVine, PG, Bulls: 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists
- Lauri Markkanen, PF, Bulls: 12 points, four rebounds
Korkmaz, Horford Step Up with Embiid Out
It's not easy replacing a player who averages 23.4 points and 12.3 rebounds. It's even tougher when that player provides as much of a mismatch on offense as Embiid does. That's the challenge for Philadelphia, and it hasn't been easy finding the answer.
Sure, Simmons can run the offense and get to the rim at will, but every team knows that's the plan. Finding someone to help take the pressure off him has been the issue—or at least it was until Friday night.
Furkan Korkmaz was uncontainable at Wells Fargo Center. He tallied career highs in both three-pointers (6-of-7 shooting) and points (24), igniting a stagnant offense to start the second half when it looked like Philly was beginning to teeter.
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“Furk gave us life in the third quarter,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said on ESPN after the frame ended.
The rookie from Turkey played 27 minutes off the bench and caught the Bulls by surprise.
Even with Chicago preoccupied in defending the paint, it couldn't keep center Al Horford from knocking down easy buckets all across the floor. Horford only attempted two shots at the rim, instead stretching the floor and popping out for mid-range looks and three-pointers.
With Horford disrupting the defense and Korkmaz knocking down three after three, it allowed Simmons to get to the paint with ease, where he connected on 10 of 16 shot attempts.
Philadelphia just has to hope Embiid is healthy by the time its opponents are able to adjust to the Sixers' patchwork offense.
LaVine All-Star Debate Continues with Another 20-Point Night
Make it nine straight games of 20 points or more for LaVine.
The debate over LaVine's season has been one of the constants for NBA pundits as he looks to earn a spot on the All-Star roster this year.
"Not this season," Jalen Rose said on ESPN's halftime show during the game.
At the same time, former NBA star Dwyane Wade has been singing LaVine's praises as a budding star.
LaVine is making it hard for his dissenters to oppose him joining the All-Star team. That was on full display Friday as LaVine stuck to his reputation of soaring for dunks even as his seven three-point attempts went for naught.
Simply put, LaVine's All-Star case is divisive. He's averaging 24.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and four assists per game this year. While his career stats are slowly ticking up, to some, it's not enough to warrant a first All-Star appearance, even with the game taking place in Chicago.
The Bulls don't have much to play for this season. Getting LaVine to the All-Star Game gives them a reachable goal. Still, the results remain inconclusive.
The Sixers will try to hang on a bit longer with Embiid working his way back to the lineup. Embiid has been running through non-contact drills and was seen putting up shots before the game but still has a ways to go before he's cleared. He'll be re-evaluated next week. Until then, Philadelphia will depart immediately for a three-game road trip to New York, Brooklyn and Toronto before a marquee matchup with the Lakers at home on January 25.
Chicago will head home to gear up for a visit from the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday before heading just north of town to face the team with the best record in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks.