No Ben Simmons, no problem as Sixers roll, 130-111
T.J. McConnell finished with a season-high tying 15 points to go with season highs of 13 assists and seven rebounds.
The 76ers have shown that they lose more often than not when Joel Embiid doesn't play.
They didn't have the same problem Saturday night in their first game without Ben Simmons.
Simmons was sidelined with swelling in his left elbow, but the Sixers won anyway, taking a 130-111 victory over the Orlando Magic at the Wells Fargo Center.
It could be argued that the Sixers (11-7) might have still won even without Embiid, who was battling a cold.
The Magic (8-12) extended their losing streak to eight games. Meanwhile, this was the Sixers' third straight win and fifth in six games.
The Sixers won with a balanced attack and six double-digit scorers.
Simmons' replacement, T.J. McConnell, as well as Embiid, and JJ Redick had the notable performances.
Redick finished with a game-high 29 points, while matching a season high with eight three-pointers on 12 attempts. Twelve of the shooting guard's points came in the second quarter. Embiid finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and five turnovers. It was the center's ninth double-double of the season.
McConnell equaled his season high with 15 points and had season-bests of 13 assists and seven rebounds to go with three steals and one block It was his first double-double since recording 10 points and 10 assists in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on April 8 of last season. It was the sixth of his career.
Embiid was trying to get McConnell to pad his statistics.
"I told him every time there was nobody around me and I had a rebound, I told him to come get the rebound so he could get the triple-double," Embiid said. "But he didn't do it. I was so pissed at him."
Elfrid Payton paced the Magic with 22 points.
But on this night, most of the focus was on how the Sixers would respond without Simmons, the overwhelming favorite to win rookie of the year. But McConnell's performance was far from shocking.
Lost in a lot of Simmons' success is that McConnell started 51 games last season.
One can make a strong argument that the third-year undrafted player — not Embiid — had the most to do with the Sixers' impressive 10-5 record in January of last season. And no one can deny the success that McConnell had last season against the Magic.
On Feb. 9, his nine-foot floater with 5.8 seconds left and steal on the ensuing possession lifted the Sixers to a 112-111 victory in Orlando. McConnell averaged 12 points, nine assists and three steals in two starts against the Magic.
So his focus on Saturday was to do what he does well — run a team — and not try to emulate the freakishly athletic Simmons.
"I'm not trying to overcomplicate anything," McConnell said before the game. "I'm just going in there, playing hard, not changing my game, doing whatever this team needs me to do. And like I always say, I'm just trying to help this team win."
That was evident from the start. McConnell recorded assists on the Sixers' first three baskets — two three-pointers by Redick followed by one from Robert Covington.
Then he scored his first basket on a finger roll with 5 minutes, 25 seconds left after a layup by Jerryd Bayless.
McConnell followed that up by blocking D.J. Augustin's shot on the ensuing possession. He later added two more assists to finish with five in the first quarter.
He went on to finish with nine assists in the first half as the Sixers built a 70-55 advantage. The nine assists tied his previous season high, which he set against the Houston Rockets on Oct. 27.
"I was just finding open guys and they were making shots," McConnell said. "It's that easy. … It's just running the offense and finding the shooters and trying to find the big fellas, too."
Embiid, who missed Saturday morning's shootaround, said he spent all day in bed before arriving at the arena before the game. The all-star candidate had a hard time breathing and was experiencing headaches.
"This morning my head was burning and I really couldn't get up," he said. "But it doesn't matter."
Embiid was determined not to miss the game, especially with his history of missing his first two seasons and playing in only 31 games last year.
"I don't ever want to be in that type of setting where [he doesn't play], because I'm sick," Embiid said. "I'm going to be able to play or whatever. I just want to be on the court."
Two-way player Jacob Pullen was back with the Sixers for Saturday night's game. … Simmons will be reevaluated on Sunday. The hope is that he'll be able to play in this week's four key games against elite Eastern Conference foes. The Sixers entertain the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday before hosting the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. Then they'll travel to Boston to face the Celtics on Thursday before ending the week hosting the Detroit Pistons on Saturday. The Celtics have the NBA's best record (18-3). The Pistons and Cavs were the conference's second- and third-best teams, respectively, heading into Saturday's matchups.