PORTLAND – The 76ers won without Joel Embiid.
Furkan Korkmaz’s wide open corner three-pointer with .4 seconds left gave the Sixers a 129-128 victory Saturday over the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center.
“I didn’t think I was going to be wide open like that,” Korkmaz said. “I was thinking that Al Horford was going to set a good pick and I was going to get the shot up.”
Horford indeed laid a solid pick on All-Star guard Damian Lillard that gave the third-year player plenty of room after receiving the inbounds pass from Ben Simmons.
"After I made the shot, I was like ‘How I should feel right now?’ " Korkmaz said. “I didn’t know what to do. That was probably, not probably, that was like the biggest shot of my career. That was incredible.”
The Sixers battled back from a 21-point deficit to improve to 5-0 for the first time since the 2000-01 season. That’s when they opened the season with 10 straight victories in en route to advancing to the NBA Finals.
This also marked their first win against the Blazers (3-3) since a 101-81 victory at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 22, 2017. It was the first time they won at the Moda Center since taking a 101-99 victory on Jan. 4, 2014.
This time, the Sixers’ second unit, led by Raul Neto (12 points) and James Ennis (seven), made huge plays to get the team back in the game.
“Everyone made plays coming in,” Simmons said. "It shows how deep we are as a team. I think everyone played a role tonight. It was guys on the second team that came in. If it wasn’t for rebounding, if it was for certain little plays, we wouldn’t have a win.”
The Sixers bench outscored Portland’s reserves, 43-35. The Sixers also had an 84-80 advantage in points in the paint.
Embiid served the first of a two-game suspension for Wednesday’s scuffle with Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. The two-time All-Star center will also miss Monday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The Sixers pulled to within 125-124 on Horford’s dunk with 50.2 seconds remaining.
Tobias Harris later drove the lane, dished the ball to Simmons, who was fouled with 10.1 seconds left. The Blazers unsuccessfully challenged the foul. So Simmons went to the foul line and made the pair to put the Sixers up, 126-125.
But, on the ensuing possession, Lillard found a wide open Anfernee Simons in the corner. He responded by burying a three-pointer to put the Blazers up, 128-126, with 2.2 seconds left. But Korkmaz answered with a corner three before Lillard missed a desperation basket at the buzzer.
Early on, the Sixers weren’t able to get the big shot or make the big defensive stop needed to get closer.
The Trail Blazers made 19-of-32 three-pointers for 55.9 percent. Portland hit 10 of those threes in the first half. The Blazers hit several open shots as the Sixers were late on closeouts.
Lillard had 33 points while making 8-of-11 three-pointers.
Portland swingman Rodney Hood scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half. He left the game with 4 minutes, 29 seconds remaining after suffering a knee injury on a pick by Simmons.
Horford paced the Sixers with 25 points. Harris added 23. Simmons had 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists. However, 11 on those points came on 5-for-6 shooting in the first quarter. Korkmaz finished with 11 points.
The Sixers improved to 2-0 in games without Embiid this season. He missed the Oct. 26 road victory over the Detroit Pistons with a sprained right ankle.
The Sixers had the same starting lineup as that game.
Horford started at center in Embiid’s place. Harris moved from small forward to power forward. That opened up a spot for Matisse Thybulle at small forward alongside Horford, Harris, and guards Simmons and Josh Richardson in the starting lineup
On Saturday night, Thybulle had a lot of family and friends in the stands. Thybulle played high school ball in the Seattle area, at Eastside Catholic. His grandparents, aunt, and godfather/agent were among those in town for the game.
This game was also a homecoming for Sixers assistant coach Ime Udoka, a Portland native.