SALT LAKE CITY – Much like a punch-drunk boxer, the Sixers were on the ropes for much of the second half against the Utah Jazz. During the third quarter, they wilted under a barrage of three-pointers from Utah that doubled as effective body blows and rabbit punches.
Markelle Fultz made sure the Sixers didn't stagger to the canvas in the fourth quarter.
Fultz scored 13 points and had four assists over that final 10-minute stretch to help the Sixers whittle a double-digit deficit to one point in the final minute. The Jazz ultimately held on for a 100-94 victory in the end (see Instant Replay), but the Sixers came away feeling good about their refusal to quit.
Fultz grabbed the spotlight with his playmaking down the stretch, but he gave credit to his teammates for cutting a 24 point-deficit almost in half while he was on the bench. It opened the door for a bigger rally to even take place.
"I just came into the game and just tried to not let the team down," Fultz said. "Just tried to go from there. I give all the credit to my teammates with them bringing us back in the game and me coming in and doing what I can to contribute."
Such performances are starting to breed an identity for Fultz as a fighter in a good sense of the word. Through both summer league games thus far, he has put the Sixers on his back. While the outcome hasn't been a victory yet, his play is inspiring teammates to play harder. They, in turn, are inspiring him to give an even more determined effort.
It has brought to light the sorts of traits the Sixers saw in him as a basketball player from Day 1.
"What he did in terms of his stats and his plays, that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone," Sixers Utah Jazz Summer League coach Billy Lange said. "He's the No. 1 pick in the draft. He's a terrific basketball player. He's got crazy skills and they're only going to get better. What it says about his character – which are the things we've been touting about since Day 1 – is that he watched those guys come off the bench and fight and then went in picked the same attitude up again."
Fultz will earn some designated rest on the final day of the Utah Jazz Summer League. He will not play against the Spurs on Thursday night.
Korkmaz makes debut
One day after signing with the Sixers, 2016 first-round draft pick Furkan Korkmaz made his debut with the team. Korkmaz started and played 17 minutes against the Jazz.
It turned out to be a bigger struggle for him on the offensive end than he anticipated. Korkmaz finished with three points and went 0 of 5 from the field. He tried to give energy, but could not overcome some fatigue associated from making the trip to Utah a day earlier.
"Tomorrow is a new day and a new challenge, so I'll be ready for tomorrow's games," Korkmaz said. "We will see how I'm going to play then. I hope I will play."
Lange liked the effort he saw from Korkmaz even while the shots weren't falling. He thinks Thursday's game will likely be a different story once Korkmaz has settled in some more and regained some energy.
"He looked smooth, but he probably didn't get the results he wanted," Lange said. "Probably will be a little bit better tomorrow night."
Imposing their will
Fultz grabbed the fourth-quarter spotlight, but Alex Poythress and Brandon Austin played a major assist in helping the Sixers get in a position to challenge Utah late.
Poythress scored 10 of his 17 points in the second half, including the team's final basket that made it a one-point game again with 11.8 seconds left. He also collected eight rebounds – with four of those coming on the offensive glass.
Poythress appeared in six games for the Sixers last season and averaged 10.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in those contests.
"Alex has a high level of athleticism," Lange said. "He's in this situation right here to really work on imposing his will and using that athleticism on both ends."
Austin was the top scorer off the bench, finishing with 16 points.