By Jerry Wein
Joel Embiid had 22 points and 12 rebounds, reserve Furkan Korkmaz hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to also score 22 points, and the visiting Sixers pulled away for a 117-97 victory over the Pelicans.
“We’ve been practicing hard,” Embiid said, also noting that players who’d made the trip had enjoyed a team-bonding dinner in the city’s historic Faubourg Marigny neighborhood a night earlier. “It was good to kind of get off to a good start, get a win and kind of forget about the off-the-court stuff.”
New Orleans was without power forward Zion Williamson, who is recovering from surgery to repair his broken foot. Ben Simmons was suspended one game for conduct detrimental to the Sixers.
Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey, inserted in the starting lineup in Simmons’ absence, had 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
“Everybody’s capable,” Maxey said. “At the end of the day, basketball’s a team effort. You need an entire team to be able to win.
“I felt like the focus was there from shoot-around, probably even from when we got on the plane yesterday,” Maxey continued. “The chemistry is really well. Guys like playing with each other, guys like being around each other. … Sometimes adversity makes you stronger, makes the bond closer and we got to just keep building.”
The Sixers dominated the fourth quarter to end Pelicans rookie coach Willie Green’s debut on a sour note.
New Orleans was as close as six points when Brandon Ingram’s turnaround fade made it 83-77 with 9:27 left.
Korkmaz responded with his onslaught from deep, hitting three 3s in less than a minute to put the Sixers up 92-79. That was the start of a 20-2 Sixers run that included another 3 by Korkmaz, sending fans to the exits ahead of an anticlimactic final six minutes.
“I was feeling it,” Korkmaz said.
Ingram finished with 25 points and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, a new starter at guard in his third NBA season, scored 23 points.
Tobias Harris also scored 20 points for Philadelphia. Andre Drummond grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked two shots.
“Our focus level was zeroed into this game,” Harris said. “I think it just comes from a lot of guys having added opportunity here and really trying to figure out ways that they can maximize that type of opportunity.”