Here are my main takeaways and best and worst awards from the 76ers' 116-115 victory over the Orlando Magic in Saturday's game at Wells Fargo Center.
• Joel Embiid has to be an early favorite for Eastern Conference player of the month. For the second straight game, Embiid attacked the rim and was a beast on the block when stationed down there. He also broke out of his three-point shooting slump by making three in five attempts en route to scoring 30 or more points for the second consecutive game.
• Sixers fans want Markelle Fultz to do well. But at this stage, the Sixers perform better when he's out of the game. The spacing is better. They play with more rhythm and step the intensity up a notch. A prime example came after he was subbed out of the game with 5 minutes, 13 seconds left in the first quarter. The Sixers went on to outscore Orlando, 25-6, before Fultz returned with 9:13 remaining in the half. Perhaps that's why T.J. McConnell replaced Fultz in the lineup at point guard in the final 5:28 of the game.
• The Sixers defense remains a work in progress. They switch a lot but need better communication when doing so. That becomes obvious during pick-and-rolls. One of the most glaring examples came early in the game. Fultz was guarding D.J Augustin and Dario Saric was on Jonathan Isaac. Isaac attempted to pick Fultz while Augustin was driving. So Saric picked up the Augustin. But instead of switching on Isaac, Fultz remained on the point guard, too. That left Isaac wide open for a jumper that he, fortunately for the Sixers, missed near the floor line.
• Sixers need to stop playing around with one-year deals for JJ Redick and sign him to a multiple-year contract. It's obvious that he, like Embiid and Ben Simmons, is a major reason for the team's turnaround. While he has some defensive limitations, Redick thrives while playing with the pair. And he's the vocal leader of the team and isn't afraid to take the big shots late in the game.
• Landry Shamet is going to have his ups and downs as one would expect from a late first-round pick in June's draft. He missed all four of his shots – including three three-pointers – in route to being held scoreless against the Magic. Shamet made 4 of 7 shots on Thursday against the Chicago Bulls. However, the Wichita State product shot a combined 0-for-8 in the other two games.
Best and worst
• Best performance: This was a tough one because Magic center Nik Vucevic had a triple-double (27 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists) and Embiid finished with a season-high 32 points. However, Redick was the game's difference maker. The shooting guard scored 31 points while making 8 of 13 three-pointers in a reserve role. His biggest three-pointer gave the Sixers a 116-114 advantage with 17.7 seconds left.
• Worst performance: This was a tough one, but I had to give this to Wes Iwundu. The Magic sixth man failed to score a point while missing all four of his shots – including two three-pointers. He also graded out with a minus-20, meaning Orlando was outscored by 20 points when he was on the floor.
• Best defensive performance: You have to give this to Aaron Gordon. The Magic small forward had three blocks and one steal in addition to finishing with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
• Worst statistic: This goes to the Sixers starters grading out a combined minus-39.
• Best statistic: I have to give this to Philly making nine of 10 foul shots to shoot 90 percent for the second straight game.
• Worst of the worst: This goes to Simmons not returning after leaving the game with back tightness with 4:19 left in the first quarter. This point guard will be missed if he has to sit out any of the upcoming games.