The Philadelphia 76ers control their own destiny in the Eastern Conference. If the team wins its remaining eight games, it will clinch the top seed and home-court advantage. It’s pretty cut and dry.
The Sixers (44-21) took another step toward that stated goal following their 106-94 win over the Chicago Bulls on Monday night. Tobias Harris and Seth Curry paved the way with 21 points and 20 points, respectively. Ben Simmons filled up the stat sheet — 15 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals — while Joel Embiid endured a relatively quiet night (13 points, 10 rebounds). The Brooklyn Nets (43-22) had the night off.
After the game, the topic turned to the relationship between Simmons and Embiid who are enjoying beautiful chemistry on the court this season. The two are locked in on winning a championship for Philadelphia and it’s manifested itself in a variety of ways, including how much they hang out off the court.
“I think we’ve gotten way closer,” Embiid told reporters. “We were close before, but this year it’s just been amazing. I love playing with him, and I think we’ve got a chance [to win it all].”
Doc Rivers was asked about the relationship between Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons
“When I first got in here I realized that there was no problem- at all.”
Doc said there was never an issue and it came down to them believing they can win and said- “Now they believe they can.”
— Sean Barnard (@Sean_Barnard1) May 3, 2021
Simmons and Embiid had been rumored to not “get along” last year, per Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey, and the Sixers’ dynamic duo were compared to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. It was thought to be addressed during the coaching search to replace Brett Brown, but new head coach Doc Rivers denied there were ever any issues between them. The Sixers also denied any validity to the report going back to last season.
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Furkan Korkmaz Injures Ankle
Keep an eye on Furkan Korkmaz’s ankle. The Turkish sensation left Monday night’s game in the first quarter after re-aggravating the right ankle sprain that sidelined him a few weeks ago. He was noticeably hobbling when he came off the court and went back to the locker room for further evaluation.
The 23-year-old sharpshooter talked openly about the issue he had been dealing with on April 26. He made it clear the pain was real but figured he could push through it. He’s averaging 9.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game while shooting 38.5% from deep.
If Furkan Korkmaz’s limping results in an injury, it would be a tough break for the Sixers.
With the playoffs coming up, Korkmaz’s presence will be missed in the second unit.
— Sergen (@sergenkumas) May 4, 2021
“It’s not a big pain,” Korkmaz told reporters at the time. “I’m not gonna exaggerate but when you play, you feel there’s something in there that makes you think about it. When you get to a game, you totally forget about it.”
Korkmaz has been a revelation this season for the Sixers and presumably worked his way into Rivers’ playoff rotation. He was a fill-in starter when injuries took out Seth Curry, Danny Green, Tobias Harris. And the Sixers will have to make a big decision on Korkmaz after the season since he’s an unrestricted free agent.
Simmons Dominates on Defensive End Again
Can we just hand Simmons the Defensive Player of the Year award already? Get on with it. The Sixers All-Star guard was phenomenal once again on the defensive end where he smothered Garrett Temple and forced Coby White into some tough shots. His steal on an inbounds pass with 1:04 left helped ice the game. Simmons effortlessly diagnosed and busted up the play, then dunked it down at the other end.
BEN SIMMONS SOLO SLAM pic.twitter.com/YcJtdl2fQh
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 4, 2021
“I don’t know how many times he’s done that,” Rivers said. “Again, you don’t see me campaigning and I’m not going to, but I’m just gonna say it again, there’s not a better defender in this league.”