ORLANDO – Things change fast in the NBA.
In their first eight games this season, the Orlando Magic shot 40.7 percent from the field and 26.6 percent from 3-point range. They had the league’s worst offensive rating during that time.
Over their last five games, four of them wins, the Magic shot 45.7 percent overall and 36.2 percent from beyond the arc. Most impressive was that their offensive rating was 114.7, fourth best in the NBA during this stretch. If you review each team's last five games only, however, Orlando ranks No. 2 in this area behind the Boston Celtics. The Phoenix Suns and Orlando's opponent on Sunday, the Washington Wizards, logged better offensive ratings since Nov. 8 but played fewer games.
The Magic’s offense, looking a lot like it did late last season when they won 22 of their final 31 games, is starting to click. The ball is moving crisply and everyone is getting involved.
Another very interesting detail from Orlando’s five-game home stand was the free throw differential. The Magic took 127 foul shots during this time, 74 more than their opponents. Over each team's last five games, Orlando ranked No. 1 in opponent free throws taken. Not only were the Magic aggressive attacking the basket and accepting the contact, they also were disciplined on the other end.
One player in particular scorching hot of late is Evan Fournier, who during the home stand averaged just a shade under 20 points per game on 54.7 percent shooting from the floor and 61.3 percent from long distance. The 6-foot-7, 205-pounder was the only player during this time who shot better than 60 percent from downtown while averaging at least 30 minutes per game.
Fournier, now in his sixth season with the Magic, has been clutch, too. In the last two games combined, he made all three of his 3-pointers in the final three minutes with his team either ahead or behind by five or less.