Popping the Kork – Observations from Sixers 117, Pelicans 97

Photo Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Nice to watch an actual basketball game without having to think about some Ben Simmons bullshit, right?

The Sixers pulled away from the feisty Pelicans on Wednesday night, running out to a 20-point victory in the season opener. I’ll borrow a phrase from Rich Hofmann here and say that we “Popped the Kork,” meaning that Furkan Korkmaz was green lighted to shoot early and shoot often. The Turkish Michael Jordan? He looked like prime Reggie Miller out there while knocking down four three pointers in the fourth quarter. Turns out his crazy hype video was not flamboyant at all; it was simply a grounded statement of fact. A preview of what to expect.

Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid, and Tyrese Maxey joined Korkmaz in the 20+ point club as the Sixers shot better than 50% from the floor. They also shot 52% from three on only 25 attempts, and hopefully they close the gap between % and 3PA this season, because the entirety of last year they were a good three point team that just didn’t take enough of those looks. Last year they finished 26th in the regular season with 30 attempts per game, but they shot 37%, which was good enough for 11th. It’s a simple analytics equation, and even your uncle (who hates analytics) can figure it out. If the Sixers move those numbers close together and play some efficient basketball, they’ve got more than enough talent to win, even while Simmons is a non-participant.

Bench work

With Shake Milton also out, we thought we might see Seth Curry staggered into some second unit looks as a ball handler, but that’s not what happened. Doc Rivers used Korkmaz as a faux point guard and rolled out some all-bench groupings in a replication of what he liked to do last year.

And it was an all bench unit that widened the gap for the Sixers and ultimately put this one away, a group looking like this:

  1. Korkmaz
  2. Tyrese Maxey
  3. Matisse Thybulle
  4. Georges Niang
  5. Andre Drummond

Korkmaz came down the floor with the Sixers up six, drilled two straight threes, and all of a sudden the Sixers found themselves up 12.

Beyond the clutch shooting, I thought he made some good reads as a ball handler. Those early shot clock pick and rolls seem to look natural for him. It gives him less to think about and lets him flow into an early action. And when he did find himself needing to distribute, he made the right decisions, hitting some shooters in the corner and finding his teammates spaced out on the perimeter.

Crockpot at The Painted Lines put together a nice highlight reel and I clipped the three three-pointers Korkmaz hit on consecutive trips down the floor:

And the fourth was off a turnover and transition movement, so technically Furkan hit his four threes in four different ways.

Also, I nearly lost my shit doing the Union post game radio show when I glanced at the TV and saw Korkmaz go up and try to dunk over a guy. That’s the image used at the top of the page. Crazy!

The Sixers bench was pretty good across the board, though we would ask Andre Drummond not to try another mid-air behind the back pass, or this:

Drummond was good, though. 17 rebounds! Six points. A +22 on the evening. And credit to Georges Niang as a floor spacer. He was 3-4 from three and really stretched the floor and made himself available as a catch-and-shoot guy. They didn’t have a stretch four off the bench last season.

Seth Curry and volume

Seth Curry had 10 points on 4-5 shooting. I need him to shoot the ball more. Hopefully it’s not a repeat of last year, where the guy is regularly on fire but just doesn’t see enough volume. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be getting at least 10 shots per game. He’s one of the best three-point shooters in the league for crying out loud.

Shot breakdown last night:

  • Curry – 5
  • Embiid – 17
  • Harris – 16
  • Maxey – 14
  • Green – 1
  • Korkmaz – 11
  • Niang – 5
  • Reed – 3
  • Joe – 3
  • Henry – 1
  • Drummond – 4
  • Bassey – 2
  • Thybulle – 3

Dunno why, but Curry’s lack of volume seems extra bothersome to the Crossing Broad staff. It’s a regular topic of discussion in Slack.

Where’s Ben Simmons?

Where is he? Probably at home playing Call of Duty.

Broadcasting remotely

Kate Scott and Alaa Abdelnaby called this game remotely from the NBC Sports Philadelphia studios. I know they’re trying to cut costs down there, but it just looks like amateur hour when you’ve got a (really good) NBA team playing on the road and the play-by-play and color commentary is being done from a studio. We all understood that travel wasn’t doable during COVID-19, but now they’re just being cheap.

The radio crews are traveling for Sixers and Flyers but the broadcast teams aren’t, so this is really NBC just trying to cut costs as they explore the sale of their regional sports networks. There had been talk of going the streaming-only route, and just phasing out the RSNs entirely, but all of that is still being determined.

Other notes

  • Jonas Valanciunas missed a bunch of bunnies in this one. He finished 3-19 from the floor and it seemed like there was a lid over the rim every time he got up a field goal.
  • Maxey is gonna go through defensive growing pains…
  • …but he has a gift of getting downhill quickly off those screens and hand offs. I think that’s a great tool in his kit. He really turns the corner well.
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker is gonna be a nice player in this league.
  • Embiid got his points but the shot selection left a little bit to be desired. Felt like he settled for some jump shots instead of working his way into better positions. He only shot six free throws, which is very low considering he was shattering records last year.

No practice today, so no Ben Simmons update. Let’s have a great Thursday.