By Julie Glass
Furkan Korkmaz hit a 3 with 0.4 seconds left and the unbeaten 76ers rallied for their fifth straight victory, 129-128 over the Portland Trail Blazers.
”I didn’t know how to feel or how to act. It was the biggest shot of my career,” he said.
Anfernee Simons made a corner 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to put Portland in front but the Sixers got the ball back after a timeout to set up Korkmaz’s falling-down, 24-footer for the win – without suspended center Joel Embiid.
The 76ers are the last undefeated team in the league with their first 5-0 start since the 2000-01 season, when they opened with 10 straight victories en route to the Eastern Conference championship.
The Blazers led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter but the Sixers closed the gap to 103-100 on Raul Neto’s driving layup with just over 10 minutes left. Damian Lillard’s 3-pointer with five minutes to go put Portland up 121-113.
Portland’s Rodney Hood, who finished with 25 points, left the game with 4:29 left after he tangled with Tobias Harris. It appeared that Hood injured his left knee.
Ben Simmons and Al Horford made back-to-back dunks to pull the Sixers within 125-124. Mario Hezonja fouled Simmons with 10.1 seconds left and he made both to give the Sixers the lead.
Korkmaz called his 3 to win it a ”dream come true.”
”We were working on that in practice. I knew that if I was open I would take the shot. That was my mentality when I was going in,” he said.
Said Simmons: ”As soon as I saw Furk open – I think he was shocked he was that open – I trusted Furk to make that shot.”
Horford finished with 25 points and Harris added 23. Simmons had 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Lillard had 33 points, including eight of Portland’s 19 3-pointers.
”We played such a great game and they just chipped away, got back into it and we let one slip,” Lillard said. ”I think the way we lost sucks. Any time anybody hits a last-second shot, and puts you up against the clock, it’s a bad feeling. “
Embiid was serving the first of a two-game suspension for an altercation with Karl-Anthony Towns during the 76ers’ 117-95 home victory Wednesday over the Timberwolves. Both were ejected from the game and Towns was also suspended for a pair of games.
Embiid was averaging 25.3 points and 10.3 rebounds to start the season. Rookie Matisse Thybulle got his second start of the season for the Sixers, but Korkmaz started the second half.
The Blazers said before the game that center Hassan Whiteside would not be available because of a left knee bone bruise. That put Portland in a tough position because Zach Collins was already out with a dislocated shoulder. Fellow big man Pau Gasol was still rehabbing from offseason foot surgery and Jusuf Nukic isn’t due back until the new year after his breaking his leg last season.
Whiteside was averaging 12.8 points and 12.2 rebounds with the Blazers in the team’s first five games. Portland started Anthony Tolliver and Hezonja up top against the Sixers, along with Hood.
The Blazers led 32-27 going into the second quarter, with Hezonja leading the way with 10 points. Philadelphia tied it at 45 midway through the quarter on James Ennis III’s 3-pointer. But the Sixers could not pull in front and Hood made back-to-back 3-pointers and Lillard added another to put the Blazers up 60-48.
Portland led by 68-57 at the break and Lillard’s 3-pointer extended Portland’s lead to 93-72. Philadelphia closed the gap with a 12-point run that narrowed Portland’s lead to 102-98 with 10:48 left in the game.