Was Thursday Night's Win in Charlotte Finally THE Furkan Korkmaz Game?
What if this is playoff Furkan?
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Well, the gods and/or 76ers medical staff finally heeded the collective will of Sixers Twitter. After much bodily harm was promised to Josh Harris, Elton Brand, Brett Brown and the Phillie Phanatic if Joel Embiid was permitted to play in both ends of a back-to-back -- just a week after his return from a shoulder sprain -- the team did the not-suicidal thing and gave the big man the night off. After all, if the Sixers couldn’t win one game on the road without Jojo against the woeful Charlotte Hornets… actually, after the loss in Golden State, RTRS’ legal counsel has advised us to cease finishing such sentences, so we’ll just leave it at that.
Anyway, turns out we didn’t really need Joel in this one, because we had the right guy to fill his shoes, if none of his other clothing items: Furkan Korkmaz. Furk was a surprise addition to the starting lineup last night -- Matisse Thybulle and Glenn Robinson III had been getting the nod at the three in Embiid’s (and Ben Simmons’) absence in the few weeks prior to Embiid’s return. But Brett explained that the team “would continue trying different personnel configurations” over the season’s final month, and that he “had one of those gut feelings” that Korkmaz was due for a big night. (That feeling may well have been joined on the way to his gut by some whiskey and Cheetos the night before, as Brett was looking a little more haggard than usual during his media availability.)
Regardless, the results spoke for themselves. Furk came out firing in the first quarter, playing the two-man game with Al Horford (mirroring his similar success with Joel against Toronto on Wednesday) and finding the Charlotte defense surprisingly willing to let him step into a wing three. He made five of six in the first quarter alone -- one short of the full Jodie Meeks, also against Charlotte as fate would have it -- until in the second, Hornets center Cody Zeller finally decided he’d had enough and started jumping out at him. And that’s when the fun really began.
Kork’s in-between game this season has been hit or miss, to say the least, but tonight the touch on his floater had an extra pillow’s worth of feathery softness. As he started getting past Zeller and driving to the hoop, he hit a couple of those teardrops over the outstretched arms of help defender Miles Bridges, then twisted around him for a scoop layup that had Marc Zumoff YESSSing in tongues. And then when Bridges began sliding out a little too far, too early to meet Furkan’s drives, he happily started dishing, getting a couple wide-open threes for Tobias Harris and a nice cathartic dunk for Mike Scott. He even gave the Charlotte crowd the complete Korkmaz experience by twice landing with his gigantic footsies just a skosh out of bounds, once on a wing three and once on a baseline drive -- what a showman.
Furkan ended the evening with 31 points on 12-18 shooting (7-11 from three), with a career-high nine assists, as the Sixers cruised (by their standards) to the 117-105 victory. He had a shot at a tenth dime with the Sixers pulling away in the fourth and Tobias getting a Howard Hughes-clean look at a corner three that he clanked off the front rim. You could see Kyle O’Quinn -- also the beneficiary of a couple Kork drop-offs during a productive run in the late-third -- playing the Kenjon Barner to Harris’ Jay Ajayi in the huddle afterwards, giving him an exaggerated amount of shit for missing the triple, as if he’d cost Furk a triple-double. (Korkmaz had three rebounds on the night.)
And now, the real question: Was this, at long last, THE unquestioned Furkan Korkmaz game? Our own SixersAdam and I had this debate recently when deciding on which game should be the Kork representative on his top ten “The [NAME] Game”s list -- I thought it should have been his 40-point Summer League performance in 2018, SixersAdam leaned towards granting it to one (or both) of his back-to-back 30-point home games in February, and a number of RTRS readers thought it should have been the Saturday night game in Portland where he hit the buzzer-beater. Ultimately, SA made what was probably the right call and went with none of them: If it’s not immediately obvious which one The Furkan Game is, then that probably means there is no Furkan Game.
So, does this superlative road performance in an Embiid-and-Simmons-less win add some clarity to the situation? Well, after much soul-searching (and informal Twitter polling, though I mostly ignored those results anyway), here’s how I rank the top five:
5. 31 points against Chicago (2/9/20)
4. 34 points against Memphis (2/7/20)
3. Buzzer-beater in Portland (11/2/19)
2. 32 and 9 in Charlotte (3/19/20)
1. 40 points against Summer League Celtics (7/6/18)
Sorry, but there just might not be any budging the Summer League game from that number one spot for me. It was our first true taste of Furkmania, of Popping the Kork, and it came against the Celtics in Summer League. And the Sixers lost and the next night Furk scored four points on 1-9 shooting. How can you possibly get any more Process than that?? He’s probably gonna have to put up 40+ against Miami in the playoffs -- and hit the game-winner over Jimmy Butler while yelling “FUCK SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL!” at him -- to have any chance of unseating the Summer League game for me.
Speaking of Miami -- with their fourth straight win, Philly is now just a half-game back of the Heat in fourth place, and a full game ahead of the Pacers in sixth. Those two teams play in Indy tonight, kicking off a tough stretch for the Heat that also sees them hosting a couple Western Conference playoff teams in Oklahoma City and Denver early next week. Given that Miami has lost three of five and couldn’t even beat these Hornets at home last week, it’s an excellent opportunity for the Sixers to grab hold of home court advantage in the East, starting with our game Monday at home against Atlanta. Let’s set Furkan’s scoring over/under for the game at two.