Fournier 11th Magic Player to Score 30-Plus in Consecutive Games
Magic veteran guard has been on scoring tear lately
ORLANDO – Born partly out of necessity and partly the product of the maturing of his game, Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier is in the mist of the best scoring stretch of his eight-year NBA career.
On the heels of him tying his career high of 32 points in Sunday’s defeat of the Golden State Warriors, Fournier delivered a 31-point gem on Tuesday night in Washington against the Wizards. Those efforts allowed him to become just the 11th player in the 31-year history of the Magic to score at least 30 points in consecutive games.
Also, Fournier has scored 30 or more points in three of the last four games and he’s reached at least 20 points in seven of nine with the two misses being 17- and 19-points efforts.
For Fournier, a six-season member of the Magic, the scoring outburst has been needed as the team has had to play various stretches of late without all-star center Nikola Vucevic (out for 6 ½ games), Aaron Gordon (out for three games), Michael Carter-Williams (out for six games) and Al-Farouq Aminu (out two games) because of injuries. However, he insists that those injuries have done more to alter his opportunities than his thinking.
``My mindset now is exactly the same as when we were healthy (as a team), but it’s just that there are more opportunities and Coach (Steve Clifford) calls my (play) more,’’ said Fournier, who has led or tied for the team lead in scoring 10 times. ``I’m trying to make the right play. Sometimes, I’m going to take contested shots and stuff, but it happens. Still, I’m trying to play within the offense and the flow and just go from there. I don’t start the game thinking that I have to do more than what I usually do. I just go.’’
Fournier has gone out and averaged 25.2 points over the Magic’s nine games prior to Wednesday – the ninth-best total in the NBA since Nov. 15. That run has put him among NBA heavyweights such as James Harden (39.9 ppg.), Luka Doncic (33.1 ppg.), Giannis Antetokounmpo (31.2 ppg.), Bradley Beal (29.3 ppg.), Trae Young (29.1 ppg.), LeBron James (27.8 ppg.), Karl-Anthony Towns (26.1 ppg.) and Anthony Davis (25.6 ppg.) since Nov. 15. Over that same nine-game time frame, Fournier has made 50 percent of his shots (76 of 152), 50 percent of his 3-pointers (34 of 68) and 83.7 percent of his free throws (41 of 49) while also contributing 3.4 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals a night.
Those efficient numbers have boosted Fournier’s season scoring average to a team-best 19.8 points per game on 48.6 percent overall shooting and 44.7 percent accuracy from 3-point range. Those numbers are a dramatic improvement over last season when Fournier saw his scoring production dip (15.1 points a night) because of overall shooting struggles (43.8 percent) and prolonged droughts from 3-point range (34 percent). If he can maintain his current standard of scoring, it would be a career high for him during his two seasons in Denver and his six in Orlando.
His 55 made 3-pointers are tied for the 17thmost in the NBA, while his 44.7 percent accuracy from beyond the arc is fourth among players who have attempted at least 100 3-point shots. The others: Marcus Morris (52.4 percent), J.J. Redick (44.9 percent) and Bojan Bogdanovic (44.9).
``As far as shooting, for sure (it’s the best stretch of his career),’’ Fournier said. ``I mean, I’ve had some good runs, but I’m definitely feeling good right now, yes.’’
BAD LUCK FOR MCW: Just as he was returning on Tuesday night from a six-game lay off because of a left hip injury, Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams had to leave the floor in Washington with a bloodied and swollen nose. X-rays came back negative for a fracture in the nose, but Carter-Williams was unable to play on Wednesday against Phoenix because of the swelling and pain in his face.
``Hopefully it’ll just be a one-game thing and hopefully he’ll be able to (return) and by Friday at shootaround he’ll be ready to go,’’ Clifford said of Carter-Williams, a player he considers to be one of best defenders in his 20 years of NBA coaching.
As Carter-Williams was swiping the ball from Beal, the Washington star guard flung around and whacked Orlando’s defensive ace in the face with the back of his hand. Referees reviewed the foul call and upgraded it to a Flagrant 1 foul on Beal.
As for Carter-Williams, he was unable to shoot the ensuring free throws and continue in the game because of the large amounts of blood gushing from his nose. After the game, Carter-Williams sat at his dressing stall in the Magic locker room with swelling in his face and cotton swabs up both nostrils to try and quell the bleeding.
Carter-Williams finished the night with five points and five rebounds, and he further gained respect from his teammates for his willingness to do the dirty work defensively.
``Man, with MCW, I feel bad for him,’’ Fournier said of his injury-plagued teammate. ``That was good defense too (on his steal of Beal). He’s tough, one of the toughest guys on the team.’’
PULLING FOR FULTZ: For a multitude of reasons, Phoenix Suns coach and former Magic player Monty Williams is pulling for Orlando point guard Markelle Fultz – except, of course, when he’s facing the Suns.
``I don’t like Markelle at all and I hope he struggles tonight,’’ Williams said with a wry smile prior to tipoff on Wednesday.
Williams, who played in Orlando from 1999-2002 and was a part of the famed ``Heart and Hustle’’ team in 1999, was an assistant coach last season in Philadelphia while Fultz played sporadically for the 76ers while battling a right shoulder injury. Williams and Fultz also had an instant connection because they both hail from Prince George’s County – Fultz is from Upper Marlboro, Md., while Williams went to high school in Oxon Hill, Md.
Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2017 NBA Draft, was traded from the 76ers to the Magic last February and the point guard has been one of the NBA’s feel-good stories of this season so far. After scoring a career-best 20 points on Tuesday near his home in Washington, Fultz has averaged 15.5 points, 5.0 assists and 1.4 steals while connecting on 54 percent of his shots in the five games prior to Wednesday.
``Outside of competing, it’s just good to see guys like him enjoy playing basketball again,’’ Williams said. ``Watching him (Tuesday), in front of his home crowd and his family at the game, and seeing him play free, it looks like he’s having fun. I got to spend a few months with him (last season in Philadelphia) and we’re from the same area, so it’s good to see younger guys from P.G. County doing well.
``He just looks comfortable out there, he’s playing his game and he’s not trying to shoot a lot of threes, he’s really good from mid-range and he’s big and strong,’’ Williams added. ``And that pass he made (Tuesday) night where he wrapped it around two (Washington) players to Fournier, that’s Markelle because he can really see the court. I’m happy to see him doing well.’’
UP NEXT: After playing two games in two nights, the Magic will get a much-needed day of rest on Thursday. However, the team will still be forced to spend part of the off day travelling to northeast Ohio for Friday’s road game in Cleveland.
The Magic will be back in Cleveland slightly more than a week after thumping the Cavaliers 116-104 on Nov. 27. In that game, Fournier poured in 30 points and the Magic forced the youthful Cavaliers into 25 turnovers – eight of which came from rookie guard Darius Garland.
Orlando is 2-0 this season against the Cavaliers, having also defeated them 94-85 on Oct. 23 in the season opener for both teams.
Following Friday’s game, the Magic will be off for two days prior to doing battle with the Bucks in Milwaukee on Monday.
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