The already wounded 76ers had to play most of Saturday night's game without their floor general.
Ben Simmons left the game with back tightness in the first quarter of a 116-115 victory over the Orlando Magic at Wells Fargo Center.
JJ Redick drained a three-pointer with 17 seconds left to put the Sixers ahead, 116-114. The Magic pulled within one on Aaron Gordon's foul shot with 8 seconds left. Orlando had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds, but Terrence Ross misfired on a three-pointer with 2 seconds left. Joel Embiid came up with the defensive rebound before the buzzer sounded.
"The theme of the game was resiliency," Redick said of the Sixers' battling back from a 16-point deficit, then taking a comfortable lead (13 points), losing it, then escaping with the win.
The victory improved the Sixers to 2-1 heading into Tuesday night's game against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. It was the team's second straight victory after suffering an 18-point season-opening loss to the Celtics in Boston.
Embiid finished with 32 points, while Redick added 31.
But a lot of the attention was on Simmons leaving the game.
He received treatment during the game, and his status moving forward was not known soon after the game ended.
Simmons left the game with 4 minutes, 19 seconds left in the first quarter. He was immediately helped to the locker room. After being evaluated, the 2017-18 rookie of the year was ruled out for the rest of the game. It appeared Simmons might have injured himself shortly after the game started, but remained in the contest.
"I really haven't been told anything," coach Brett Brown said of Simmons after the game. "I don't believe it's serious. I would say it weighs more on precautionary, but I'm just giving my opinion without any information from our doctors."
Brown said he didn't think Simmons had an MRI. He said the team would learn more late Saturday night. The Sixers are off Sunday and will give an update on Simmons' status on Monday.
>> PHOTO GALLERY: Photos from the Sixers' win over the Magic
"I was told that his back was sore before the game, and they had manipulated it just for me to be aware of it so I wasn't surprised," Brown said.
Brown paid close attention to Simmons once the game began. The coach realized his point guard didn't look entirely right. That's why the Sixers decided to get him out of the game. Simmons was not made available for comment.
The Sixers were already without their top three offseason acquisitions — Wilson Chandler (strained left hamstring), Mike Muscala (sprained right ankle), and Zhaire Smith (broken left foot) — along with reserve guard Jerryd Bayless (sprained left knee).
There's a chance Muscala could return this week. Chandler hopes to return on Saturday against the Charlotte Hornets. Bayless could return in about three weeks.
Brown said Markelle Fultz will probably start at point guard and Redick at shooting guard if Simmons is unavailable for Tuesday's game.
"It's a bit premature," he said. "But on first glance, probably. … We will learn more about Ben after treatment [Saturday night] and how he responds in the morning."
Embiid, who's averaging 28.3 points, had another dominating performance for the shorthanded squad.
He made 13 of 26 shots – including making three of five three-pointers – to go with 10 rebounds and three assists. And he did not have a turnover.
Embiid did most of his damage in the first half. The All-Star center finished with 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting, including 3-for-4 from three, in the first 24 minutes. Embiid has recorded the last two 20-point halves by a Sixer. His last one came on Feb.9.
Redick made eight of 13 three-pointers in a reserve shooting guard role. Fultz had eight points, seven assists, and four rebounds. The starting shooting guard assumed the primary ball handling duties once Simmons left the game.
As a result, he remained in the starting lineup at the start of the second half. Redick had replaced him in the starting lineup after intermission in the first two games. But both Redick and Fultz started due to Simmons' injury.
The Magic, making four of five shots, jumped out to an early 9-0 advantage 2:05 into the game, forcing the Sixers to call a timeout.
Dario Saric hit a three following the timeout, Evan Fournier (31 points) answered with his second three-pointer. The Magic opened up a 17-4 advantage after Jonathan Isaac's three-pointer.
The Sixers made their second basket in 12 attempts on Fultz's dunk to pull them within 17-6. But Orlando went on to lead by as many at 16 points in the opening quarter.
The Sixers pulled within 32-30 on Redick's three-pointer at the conclusion of the quarter.
They took their first lead, 33-32, on Redick's three 35 seconds into the second quarter. The Sixers went on to lead by as many as 13 points late in the second quarter.
The Magic took a 112-110 on Ross' 42-foot shot-clock-beating three-pointer with 1:24 left.
Redick hit a three-pointer on an Embiid assist to put the Sixers up, 116-114, with 17 seconds left.
After the game, the Sixers' thoughts were on Simmons.
"I hope we don't lose him for the long term," said Robert Covington, who had 12 points, two steals, one block. "I hope he will be ready to play next time if it is possible, but I don't know."
The game was sort of a homecoming for former Westtown School and University of Texas standout Mo Bamba (five points, three blocks.)
"I used to come here and watch games," the 20-year-old said of Wells Fargo Center. "It feels like everything kind of happened not too long ago."
The Harlem native spent his sophomore, junior and senior years of high school at Westtown. He was regarded as the nation's second-best college prospect in the Class of 2017 by recruiting services Scout.com and Rivals.com.